Like most Canadian kids, dreams of the NHL ran through Kaleb Toth’s head.
The first step in his plan at the time came when he was drafted in the first round by the Prince Albert Raiders in the 1992 WHL Bantam Draft.
After playing Midget AAA with the Calgary Buffaloes, he made his debut with the Raiders two years later, filling in spot duty.
“I didn’t play much,” Toth said. “I was fourth line, the coaches wanted me to fight, fill the fourth line roles and the (annoying) thing was that I was good at fighting so then he wanted me to fight more.”
The following year, he was given a regular shift and showed off some offensive abilities. However, all that meant was he became a trade-chip for the Raiders, who were looking to make a run at the WHL Championship. Near the trade deadline, Toth was part of a deal with Moose Jaw in exchange for future NHL player Curtis Brown.
While chasing the NHL dream, he wouldn’t stop playing lacrosse. During a Canada Day Tournament when he was playing midget lacrosse, he was approached by the Burnaby Lakers about joining their team. He declined their offer since he would be heading to Prince Albert soon after. It took another season before he would become a member of the Lakers.
As a 19-year-old with the Warriors, he showed his offensive, gritty style, finishing the year with 26 goals, 54 points and 142 penalty minutes. He bumped up to 2/3rd round ranking by the International Scouting Service, but he was not selected in the NHL Entry Draft.
“Those two years where I never got drafted, it made it more realistic in my eyes that I would probably not play in the NHL.”
Right after the hockey season, he was out in Burnaby, B.C.
“I’d finish hockey, come home, hang out for a week then I’d drive out to BC,” he said.
His hockey coaches were not excited about the idea, especially Warriors bench boss Al Tuer.
“When I told him I was playing lacrosse, he said ‘no you’re not.’ I was like, ‘yeah I am’ ‘no you’re not, you might get hurt,’ so I said ‘that’s funny, my lacrosse coach said the same thing, he doesn’t want me playing hockey.’
“I basically told them that it’s my summers, I get to do what I want with them. You can’t tell a guy he can’t go water skiing because he might break his leg water skiing.
I’ve been playing lacrosse for a long time and you’re not going to tell me to quit.”
In his first year with the Lakers in 1997, they made it to the Minto Cup – the junior lacrosse version of the Stanley Cup – against the Whitby Warriors. Playing with future NLL players like Matt Disher, Cam Sedgwick and John Olson, the Lakers lost the seven-game series 4-2. Toth contributed 14 points in the loss.
After a few days off, he was back with the Warriors for training camp.
He was named captain of the Warriors for his overage season, but was dealt at the trade deadline for a second time, this year to the Lethbridge Hurricanes. His new team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, and his WHL career was over, but not his junior lacrosse experience.
After losing the Minto Cup the year before, the team would not be stopped this time around. During the regular season, he lead the BCJALL with 69 goals, 61 assists, 130 points in only 24 games. He followed that up with 20 points in the Minto Cup as the Lakers downed the Six Nations Arrows for his first Minto Cup.
“Those are the things you cherish, you don’t go around telling people hey I won a scoring title in junior lacrosse. People want to know if you won any championships. And then they’ll ask ‘were you any good’ and you said ‘I did alright’”
Next year, he turned pro in hockey and added more hardware to his lacrosse cabinet.