It’s quite simply the greatest goal ever scored in the history of the NLL – and it wasn’t meant to be scored by rookie Kaleb Toth.
The date was May 6th, 2000 at the Maple Leaf Gardens.
The NLL Championship between the Toronto Rock and Rochester Knighthawks was going to be the last game ever at the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And the game lived up to the expectations.
It was back-and-forth all afternoon, with neither team able to land the knockout punch. Many players would go on to say it was the greatest game they were ever apart of.
Late in the affair, the Rock were holding a 13-12 lead when John Grant Jr. scored the tying goal the only way he knows how. Three Rock defencemen are draped on his back, and he somehow whips out a behind-the-back shot into the net behind Bob Watson to tie it up with under a minute left.
Seconds count down until the late Rock head coach Les Bartley calls a timeout. He draws up a play with the ball to be fed inside to Dan Stroup, who had the hot hand of the night with five goals.
In highlight films that have been played thousands of time since, Toth is called upon to bring the ball up. He’s supposed to pass the ball off to Colin Doyle. Doyle waits for the pick to be set down low that should free up Stroup in the middle of defensive zone.
The Rock’s timing is off though, and Stroup gets double-teamed. Doyle doesn’t force the pass inside and instead he tosses it to the unprotected Toth.
Toth sidearms a shot in the small space between Knighthawks goaltender Pat O’Toole and the crossbar, hitting the mesh with one second left on the clock.
“It was one of those things where all game it seemed like I was hitting him in the chest, I just couldn’t pull it enough,” Toth said, who finished the night with a hat trick. “The one time I needed to pull it, I did and it worked out great. Our scouting report that Les Bartley and the coaching staff had was to shoot side high on Patty O’Toole because he would dip, he wouldn’t come up. It left that little spot. I was trying to hit it all game, but I couldn’t pull it enough. When I needed to hit it, I did.”
Toth jumped up and down “like a school girl” as the Rock bench emptied and joined in the celebration.
The Rock were NLL Champions for the second straight year.
Everyone involved in lacrosse admits it’s the biggest goal in NLL history.
Colin Doyle said: “The shot itself was completely amazing, putting it top shelf from where he was underhand shortside but it was the timing of it. Where lacrosse was at the time as a game and where the NLL was, I think it just helped springboard the next five years. It was on TV, it was in front of a packed house, and I think that goal helped lacrosse go a long way in Toronto and eventually across Canada.”
Terry Sanderson added: “It had a tremendous impact. People still see it today. It’s on the highlight reels on every lacrosse show – it has to go down as the shot. One second to go to win a championship, you can’t do it any better than that.”
It was only Toth’s rookie season – he would score 324 more goals in the NLL – but his legacy was set.
“If I would have missed the net, then maybe my career would have went a little different, maybe not, but you have to capitalize on the opportunities you are given and fortunately for me, I did that opportunity.”