Vet Veltman to scoop up a milestone

TY PILSON, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Toronto Rock captain Jim Veltman was the MVP in 2004 but it seems people have forgotten.

Less than two National Lacrosse League seasons later, some critics are ready to put him out to pasture after a slow start to the 2006 season. That talk has riled his teammates, his fans and his coach, Terry Sanderson.

"You haven't heard," quipped Sanderson during this week's media conference call.

"Back here, I hear he's too old to play. It's amazing isn't it. He's got 72 loose balls this year and he's done."

In a game where possession is paramount, the loose-ball stat is vastly underrated.

The more loose balls you get, the more time your team gets on offence.

And Veltman -- who goes by the nicknames Scoop and Hoover -- has dominated in loose balls since joining the league.

When Veltman takes to the carpet today to play the Calgary Roughnecks at the 'Dome (1:30 p.m., Sportsnet), the 13-year vet -- sitting with 1,998 -- will be looking to grab his 2,000th loose ball. It will be the first time anybody has achieved that mark.

"Setting the bar, or setting a milestone like that for other people to achieve is kind of special," said Veltman, who turns 40 next month.

The 11-time all-pro has no plans to hang up his stick anytime soon.

He said the play of another Toronto professional athlete has motivated him to keep excelling and striving to be the best he can be.

"I was really inspired this summer by Damon Allen here in Toronto," said Veltman. "He out-and-out had an outstanding year in the CFL and was the most valuable player in the league. He really inspired me.

"To do what he's doing at his age is great.

"I looked at my wife and said: 'Theresa, I got a gift and I should use it.'

"I can still do it at this age and a lot of people can't.

"I just think it's something I should do. It's almost like an obligation."

Veltman said he doesn't feel like he's lost a step or anything.

"I can't say that I've had my best games so far but I don't think my game has gone down," he said.

Sanderson concurs.

"My own opinion is that I don't think he's lost anything," said Sanderson.

"Forty years old isn't 25 or 26 but he's still a valuable part of our team and he has the respect of everybody in that room."


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