Kaleb Toth was three years old when he first picked up the stick that would eventually make him famous.
Born and raised in Calgary, his older brother Joe was signing up for sports and someone convinced his mother Christine that she should sign up Joe for lacrosse. After a brief explanation about what the sport was, Christine decided why not give it a shot.
Kaleb’s dad Harris, who was away on a business trip, was angry when he came home to find out his wife did this.
“He was like ‘lacrosse is this deadly sport where they get hit with sticks. There is no way we can put him in there.’ My mom said ‘these guys talked me into it, let’s go check out what it is.’”
But after watching the game, the family fell in love with the fastest sport on two feet.
As the younger brother, Kaleb would be dragged to all of Joe’s practices and one d day started playing with a stick. Soon enough, the coach of the team asked Christine if he was interested in joining the team.
Now Kaleb proudly admits he was a large three-year-old and had no problem running around the field with kids one or two years older.
“I wasn’t your typical three-year-old,” he said. “I was 11 pounds when I was born so I was a big kid. I was tall, I was solid and there was no contact.”
The lacrosse scene in Calgary was pretty small at the time, with only four mini-tyke teams and maybe 400 total players.
Because he started a year earlier than he should have, he was always the youngest player on his team when he rose through the ranks. But that never slowed him down. The only time he competed at his own age group, other parents were incensed because he would light the lamp 10 times a game. He was back up in the higher level again.
His father ended up coaching him as a member of the Calgary Axeman lacrosse program.
It was safe to say he was usually the best player on the floor in minor lacrosse. His dad would hold him to five or six goals a game before Kaleb was told no more shooting.
“He was very adamant that I learned to pass the ball, that I don’t just play offence, that I get back and play defence. I’m sure it was like that for a lot of kids when they excel at something. That helped make me a more of a complete player.”
But when the game was on the line, the play went through Toth.
While lacrosse was his summer love, hockey was his mistress during the winter months. He would play minor hockey from September through March and pick up the lacrosse stick soon after. In total, he usually only got a month or two away from the rink.
“We played lacrosse, hockey, soccer, all that kind of stuff and then when we got a little older, it was pick two, which was hockey and lacrosse,” he said. “It was just both sports replicated each other, they were similar but different and the perfect fits for each other.
“You use the same hand-eye coordination, it’s fast, you have to learn how to hit, you have to learn how to take a hit. They just match so good together. It was one of those things where I loved hockey and I loved lacrosse and I played both as far as I could.”
His hockey skills were equal to his lacrosse abilities, with junior hockey scouts noticing him as a 14-year-old with the Calgary Buffaloes.
Soon Kaleb excelled to a level that saw him leave Calgary for both sports – heading east for hockey and going west for lacrosse.