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Gerry Veit, father of former Central Florida captain Gerhard Veit, suffered an apparent heart attack Friday at the Can-Am in Saranac Lake, N.Y. playing in the over-50 division for the Myths and Legends. Veit collapsed during the team's second game of the tournament and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died.
Veit’s son was playing for the Fathers and Sons in the tournament’s top division, and Gerhard helped the team to the championship Sunday.
"We felt love from everybody involved in the sport," Veit told the local paper, "not just from people we know, but from all variety of clubs. Everybody pulled through, and that's really helping us through this tough time. I just have to give a big thanks from our family - a big, big thanks. We didn't have to win this game, but I'm sure the 'Old Man' appreciated it, though."
Gerry’s team also went on to win the over-50 division, beating the Connecticut Grey 27-0.
“Before the game, we didn't talk specifically about Gerry, but rather we talked about us as a family of teammates. We all came down wanting the championship," said Lee Powell of the Myths and Legends.
"It wasn't necessarily, 'Win it for Gerry.' Gerry is part of us, but we're all a part of wanting to win the championship. It's pretty difficult to overload the emotions of your buddy passing away during the middle of a game in front of you. I think our captain Steve Hicks handled it really well. The only comment was, 'Play like Gerry plays, and play like Gerry wanted you to play.'"
Gerhard led UCF to back-to-back DI-AA National Championships in 2013 and 2014, famously putting away James Boozer for the game-winning try to beat Lindenwood at the buzzer in 2013. The elder Veit was by all accounts a well-known figure in the Ottawa rugby community. A crowdfunding campaign has been set up in his honor.