A Nanaimo Timbermen all-time great is going into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Kaleb Toth – ‘9er’ to players and coaches who know him – was honoured before a WLA playoff game at Frank Crane Arena this week, coming out for a ceremonial faceoff recognizing his upcoming hall-of-fame induction.
“They’re retiring 9er’s number,” exclaimed a current T-men player, misunderstanding the ceremony and glancing around at his teammates’ jerseys. “No one wears nine, right?”
Nobody wore the number nine quite like Toth.
The hard-shooting forward won a Minto Cup, two Mann Cups, three National Lacrosse League championships and a World Indoor Lacrosse Championship during his playing career. He may be best-known for scoring a championship-winning goal for the Toronto Rock in the last second of the NLL final at Maple Leaf Gardens in 2000, but in Nanaimo he was a face of the senior A Timbermen franchise for most of its modern history. Toth was selected by the T-men in the expansion draft and played his final seven WLA seasons in Nanaimo before moving behind the bench to coach the team for another six seasons.
He said he thought his buddies were playing a practical joke on him when he received a call from a Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame committee member congratulating him on his induction.
“It was surprising, but it was quite an honour to be selected…” Toth said. “[I’d] never thought about it. I didn’t play the game to make the hall of fame, I played the game because I loved it. I wanted to win championships.”
He won his Minto Cup with the Burnaby Lakers, Mann Cups with the Victoria Shamrocks and Champion’s Cup titles with the Rock and the Calgary Roughnecks. He scored more than 500 points in the WLA and more than 700 points in the NLL.
As a coach with the Timbermen, he led the team to playoff appearances in his last two season behind the bench in 2018 and 2019. With three kids all playing lacrosse, it was becoming too much to coach senior A and three minor teams, so he stepped away from the WLA to spend more time with his family.
The Ladysmith resident still gets to games, though, and has been to the arena to watch senior A, junior A and junior B action this summer.
“I’m a fan of lacrosse and I like to see lacrosse in Nanaimo grow and I like to see it constantly getting better and I like to think that I had a small part in making lacrosse a little bit better in Nanaimo…” Toth said. “It’s great to see lacrosse in Nanaimo build and succeed.”
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He’s also seen the game itself evolve. In his playing days, he said, only a handful of younger players worked out and trained year-round, while veterans tended to use training camp to get into game shape. Now, guys are all “exceptional athletes” and Toth said it’s a better, faster game.
“Back when I played it was a lot rougher, you could use the wood sticks, guys were hacking and chopping,” he said. “The game’s gone away from that. They’re trying to make it more entertaining for the fans and they’ve done a great job.”
The Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame class of 2022 was announced in July and the induction ceremony will happen in November.