Oakville, ON – Toronto Rock Owner, President and GM Jamie Dawick has announced the team will retire the number 32 worn by former Captain and NLL Hall of Fame member Jim Veltman. The ceremony will take place prior to the game on Fri., Apr. 12 on Fan Appreciation Night at Scotibank Arena.
The Brampton, ON native and winner of five NLL championships with the Rock will have his jersey raised to the rafters and join Bob Watson’s number 29 and Colin Doyle’s number 7 as the only other players in franchise history to receive the honour.
Dawick became owner of the Toronto Rock prior to the 2010 season, two years removed from Veltman’s final year with the club. Fans have repeatedly asked about when the team will retire Jim’s number 32. With today’s announcement, ‘why now?’ will be the next question asked, so here’s the answer.
“When I bought the team in 2010, it was really Whipper’s (Bob Watson) time and it was his moment to be honoured,” said Dawick. “After we won in 2011 and Bob retired, the focus really shifted to Colin and honouring him and it was his moment. I didn’t want to take anything away from those two players and what they deserved. Here we are today and the timing is just right. There was never any doubt that Jim deserved this honour and I couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate this team’s first captain and raise his jersey to the rafters where it belongs.”
Veltman admits that he wasn’t expecting the call, but the honour and thrill far outweighed any level of surprise.
“When the phone goes off and I saw Jamie’s name and number I wondered what it was about,” said Veltman. “Jamie explained what the call was about, and I just thought wow, this is really cool, really thrilling. It’s been a few years for sure but it’s not about apologizing, this is great news and such an honour for me and my family. To be one of those names up in the rafters, it’s an honour and a thrill.
“I immediately start to think about all the moments and the great times and teammates. The memories that you carry with you, the moments that actually happened and that you lived through those moments. You feel it in your veins, the high pressure, intense moments and the big games. To be a part of that with a group of guys along with the coaches and management and ownership and the passionate fans, was all so special. If I could give the experience I had to everybody, I would.”
After five seasons in Buffalo that included three championships with the Bandits to begin his NLL career, Jim and his wife Teresa went to Uganda to do humanitarian work and he did not play during the 1997 season. While in Africa, Veltman was regularly receiving faxes from back home from both the Buffalo Bandits and the new Ontario Raiders franchise, that later transformed into what we know today as the Toronto Rock. The information transmissions were similar in nature, both expressing their excitement about having Jim in their lineup for the 1998 season when he returned to North America.
“I was so far removed from life in North America,” remembered Veltman. “When I came back in late October of 1997, I had to make a decision. I contacted Dave Succamore (President of the Professional Lacrosse Players’ Association) in search of some clarification as both Buffalo and Ontario thought I was their property. In the end, after 17 months in East Africa, the league allowed me to make my own decision. I left a really good situation with an established team in Buffalo and chose to play for the brand new Ontario Raiders with Johnny Mouradian and Les Bartley who had left Buffalo as well to start the new team.
“That first year in 1998 wasn’t great in Hamilton, the attendance and the season weren’t great, and I thought maybe I made a mistake. But then I heard the Watters group had bought the team and thought, wow this could be great and the team was going to play in Toronto and the Rock were born. That first game, they held up the opening faceoff because there weren’t enough ticket people to get the fans in the building. They were expecting 7,000 fans but instead, over 11,000 people showed up for that first game at Maple Leaf Gardens, and the rest is history. We knew we had a good team with the Raiders, but the move to Toronto and that first championship in 1999 started an incredible run.”
That run included six trips to the NLL championship game and five championship wins, in an unprecedented and likely never to be repeated, seven-year run of dominance captained by number 32.
From the very beginning, Veltman was the first building block for the Rock. He was truly the leader, both on and off the floor and the first face of the franchise.
Veltman retired from the NLL following the 2008 season, but to this day, he remains the franchise leader in the statistical category that defined him as a player and earned him the nickname, ‘Scoop’. 1,958 loose balls still stands as the Rock career mark and no one is even close as Doyle’s 857 is second best. What is even more impressive is of the ten best single season loose ball totals in team history, Veltman owns eight spots on that list. His 2,517 loose ball pickups are tops all-time in NLL history.
In addition to the team accolades, Veltman was also the first recipient of the NLL’s sportsmanship award in 2002 and was named NLL MVP in 2004. He was also the first recipient of the Rock’s Les Bartley Award for dedication to the team. In 2009 he was inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame and in 2014 he was a member of the inaugural six-member class inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.
“The championships are there, but the first is the biggest,” Veltman said when speaking about his most cherished Rock memory. “Someone asked me the other day, which one is best, but they are all different, and all had unique challenges on the way to winning. That last championship in 2005 was also so special, when Les was ill and Terry (Sanderson) took over and his respect for Les and what he had built was great to see. It was a very emotional time as Les died the day after we won that fifth championship.”
Today, Veltman celebrates his 53rd birthday and continues a 21-year career as a Physical Education teacher and Guidance Counsellor at Agincourt Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, ON.
Tickets for the Apr., 12 game against the New England Black Wolves are on sale now and are available for purchase at torontorock.com and the Scotiabank Arena box office.
2018-19 Toronto Rock Single Game Tickets along with the 4 Game Pack and 6 Ticket Flex Pack are on sale now. To purchase or for more information, please visit torontorock.com or call 416-596-3075.