The End Of A Lacrosse Season; The End Of A Lacrosse Era

The final game of the 2007-2008 NLL regular season meant absolutely nothing to the Toronto Rock or the Philadelphia Wings. But neither team received the memo, as the Sunday afternoon contest was certainly not played that way. It was being hyped as the “retirement celebration” for Toronto lacrosse icon Jim Veltman and it did not disappoint in the least.

In what I thought was simply a great touch, all of the Rock players and goalies came out for the pregame warmup as well as the game introductions in many different variations of the Rock #32 jersey, and all wearing the Captain “C”, with the Veltman name on the back. As one bystander commented, it actually took a minute to find the real Veltman.

The pregame festivities included a ceremonial face-off by The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable David C. Onley, and Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds was the pregame excee. After a great video presentation, Jim Veltman addressed the crowd. We caught all of the footage below:

[livevideo id=425AA85038214CCB81630A3E2715A041]

Photo coutesy of m40images
Jim Veltman's last goalPhiladelphia came out of the gate flying, and early on showed why they are a playoff bound contending team in the East. The Wings scored eight first quarter goals, with the first six chasing Toronto starter Bob Watson from the net. Veltman scored one of Toronto’s only two first quarter goals as he took a pass from Cam Woods while cutting right down a wide open middle of Philly’s defense. But for the vast majority of the first fifteen minutes, it was Toronto trying to contain Philadelphia’s fast offense. Unfortunatley, there were far more attempts to stick check, or strip the ball, than there were to play physical and stop Philly going to the net. The score was 8-2 after one and I thought that the celebration was not going to be a fond one to remember.

In the second quarter Toronto played much better lacrosse and actually started to make it a game. They played with passion, scored goals on offense, and shut down Philly’s offense in Toronto’s end. Toronto won the quarter 5-2 but still found themselves down 10-7 at the half.

The third quarter saw both teams start to play better defensivley with each team scoring only twice, and neither taking control. In the fourth, Toronto outscored Philly 5-3, but the horrid first quarter that they had to start the game, left them short at the end. They were tied late, but a short handed goal by Athan Iannucci sealed the win for Philadelphia.

Photo coutesy of m40images
Athan Iannucci's game winning goalIannucci showed why he won the scoring title this season, scoring four on the night. The ball is not in his stick long before it is in the back of the net. Iannucci is a tower out there and looks like he can go where he wants, when he wants. And the speed of his release caused trouble all afternoon for Toronto. AJ Shannon also scored two very nice goals, as did Jason Crosbie and Jamie Rooney.

Blaine Manning and Lewis Ratcliff each scored three goals for Toronto, while Aaron Wilson and Scott Campbell both had two.

I thought Rob Marshall was the best player on the floor for Toronto, and then the Captain (Veltman) was the next. Marshall showed character and hustle all game long. He has really impressed me this season and Toronto would be wise to keep him for the future. As the season progressed, he looked to me like he could succeed Captain Jim as possibly the player this team rallys around. The young guy plays with the heart, that Rock fans have adored in their retiring captain.

Our post game recap is below:

[livevideo id=69C5377DD06543BFA752D6B65A4BD9D1]

Other Game Notes:

– Geoff Snider was outstanding again on face-offs going 27/32.
– goal of the game was a tie (but both by Philly). First after a Philly goal, Snider wins a draw directly to Iannucci, who in turn flips an underhand to Merrick Thomson who scores 5 seconds after the last goal. The second was a beauty by AJ Shannon who beat his man down low, and driving to the net, dove in the air. He faked low, then threw the ball over the shoulder of Mike Poulin before landing in the crease.
– “Scoop” went out in style with a goal and four assists and seventeen loose balls
– Philly goalies Blasdell and Miller were soilid in Philly’s goal facing a combined 73 shots

On Veltman’s Retirement

Not often does a player leave a professional game on his own terms. Barry Sanders (NFL – Detroit Lions) is one that comes to mind. Jim Veltman, at 42 is obviously not the player he was at 22. But he is such a smart player, that he has been able to adapt his game to his age, and still be one of the best. He was easily one of the top two players on the floor today for Toronto. He still plays at a very high level, he is still a Professional. He played today with the passion and enthusiasm of a hot shot rookie. Jim is leaving the game on his terms, and good for him!

Photo coutesy of m40images
Jim VeltmanBut more importantly, he is a World Class person. Anyone that has ever met the man will tell you how accomodating he is, how “real” he is, and so many other complimentary traits that make up very good people. Just as impressive about Jim is his ability to share his own accolades with his team mates, family, fans and so many more. He understands how many people in his personal and lacrosse life have helped him to get to his retirement today.

So when someone this good for the game leaves, it is very bittersweet for us all. We selfishly do not want to see one of our heros leave the game that we all are so passionate about. But at the same time, you cannot help but have a mountain of respect for him as a person, for his play, for his involvement in the community, for everything there is to Jim Veltman.

Jim, from all of your fans around the entire National Lacrosse League, thank you! Knowing that you are still going to be involved in the game is comfort to those that already miss you on the floor.

With that folks, I’d like to leave you with the last 30 seconds of Jim Veltman’s Professional Lacrosse Career, and the appreciation shown by Rock fans:

[livevideo id=A590D9B40EDF4166ADE529F61FFAC0E0 ]



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