Veltman's final scoop

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

History was made yesterday at the Air Canada Centre, but unfortunately for Rock fans, longtime captain Jim Veltman's 16-year playing career is now history as well.

The Philadelphia Wings beat the Rock 15-14, sending Veltman off with a loss.

Philadelphia star Athan Iannucci scored the winner, a difficult leaping effort with 44 seconds remaining. It was Iannucci's third goal of the game and his 71st of the season, extending his league record.

Before Iannucci's heroics, the Rock, sparked by its 42-year-old captain, had rallied from a 12-9 deficit entering the fourth quarter.

Veltman had a hand in two of the late goals as the team tied the game at 14.

With 31.6 seconds remaining and the Rock down by one, the crowd of 15,322 honoured Veltman with a chant of "Thank you Jim."

Veltman stayed on the floor for Chris Driscoll's desperation shot that Wings goalie Rob Blasdell turned aside with three seconds left, and a remarkable career was over.

Before the game, Veltman was presented with a framed ticket and a tribute video was played. He also said a few words to the fans, who serenaded him with chants of Scoop, his nickname owing to his uncanny ability to collect loose balls. During breaks in play, former teammates and coaches such as John Tavares, Terry Sanderson, Steve Toll and Dan Stroup also congratulated Veltman via prerecorded video messages.

Veltman, who scored a goal and had a season-best five points, said all the adulation made it "kind of feel like your own funeral."

After the game, Veltman tossed his helmet, gloves and stick into the crowd -- "I would have tossed more, but it's a family crowd," he joked afterward -- while sporting the tattered Brampton Excelsiors shirt that he has worn for almost every pro game.

Veltman said the equipment toss was a spontaneous moment.

"All the support I've had over the years ... You try to connect with people and fans that you've seen since the Gardens," he said.

"It's very special. That's the kind of bond you get I guess after 10 years."

Dan Ladouceur, the only Rock player besides Bob Watson to play all 10 seasons with Veltman, said he'll remember Veltman as a great leader who was a role model in that he "was always the hardest worker on the floor in practice or games."

Watson was pulled after surrendering six goals on 12 shots. Mike Poulin was excellent in relief, giving the Rock a chance for a comeback.

After the Rock fell behind by two goals early in the first, Veltman responded with his sixth of the year, but Philadelphia poured it on from there, building a 7-1 lead.

When the Rock trailed 8-2 after the first quarter, the fans that had cheered so loudly for Veltman only minutes earlier were booing the home team.

Toronto responded in the second quarter, outscoring the Wings 5-2, to cut the gap to 10-7. Both clubs tallied twice in the third quarter.

Veltman, who won eight titles as a player, said he was looking forward to being behind the Rock's bench next season alongside longtime teammate Glenn Clark.


Videos

Photos