There was so much written about Jim Veltman the last week that I had a difficult time trying to think of something to say about him that wasn’t said already (many times).
Everybody knows of his humanitarian work, his leadership skills, and his relationship with the fans. In fact, I think that part of the reason fans are so endeared to him is that his humble quiet demeanor is so unlike the “jock” stereotype.
Throughout his last Toronto Rock game on Sunday many Jim Veltman tributes were played on the jumbo screen. They were from former teammates, opponents, and most talked about what a great guy Jim Veltman is. One was from Glenn Clark and I totally agree with his observation that Jim Veltman’s competitiveness is sometimes overlooked. Jim is great humanitarian but the reason that I like to celebrate his career is not because of his contributions off the floor. It’s for what he did on the floor.
Veltman is way more than the sum of his parts. He is a perfect example as to why you should never pick a team without scrimmages or games. Just imagine an unknown Jim Veltman trying out for a team. He’s too skinny. He doesn’t shoot that hard. He’s doesn’t have Tavares-like fakes. OK, he’s dominating the loose ball drills but he looks so awkward at times. He’d probably get killed in games. How wrong.
If you’re a coach – in any sport – please think of Veltman before you cut a player based on “skills.” A friend of mine just told me his son was cut from a hockey team at a tryout that only included skating drills. I wonder if the coach missed a potential “Veltman.” Veltman might be the best competitor this league has ever seen. Believe me, he couldn’t play you a game of darts without trying to get in your head. Within the context of a game he is all about winning and will do what is necessary to get there. I’m disappointed the way his season ended. This was only the second time that he has missed the playoffs in his NLL career and I know that hurts him deeply. That’s not the way it should have ended.
I’ll choose a different memory when I think of Veltman. It was the 2003 championship game in Rochester, a game in which I covered for Roger’s Sportsnet. Toronto had never won at the Blue Cross Arena and Veltman willed his team to an 8-6 victory with dominance all over the floor. He killed penalties, set up shorthanded goals, scored goals and made incredible dives for looseballs. This is not a shot at Bob Watson, who was brilliant between the pipes, but Veltman was robbed of the MVP — probably because the selection was made by someone who simply read the game sheet (which missed an assist or two). Even without looking at the game sheet, you have to recognize when one player is capable of taking over a game and owning it like Veltman did so many times in his career.
You won’t ever see that greatness by watching drills.A longtime TV analyst for lacrosse, Shanny calls games for TSN. Shanny won five Mann Cups as a player and is the voice of boxla in Canada. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @sbdshanny.
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