The Rochester Knighthawks have released goaltender Pat O'Toole from their active roster. After serving as the club's starting goaltender since 1998, he becomes the team's goaltender coach, and will coach goalies Matt Vinc & Aaron Bold.
Pat O'Toole ends a 17-year playing career and will now coach the Knighthawks goaltenders.
Pat O'Toole, one of the most prolific goalies in National Lacrosse League history, will embark on the next stage of his career in 2011 with the Rochester Knighthawks. O'Toole will enter his 14th season in Rochester, and 18th in the league, as the Knighthawks' goaltending coach after agreeing to a two-year deal, with an option, today.
"Coaching is something I love doing. I am hoping to bring something to the table to the Knighthawks," said O'Toole. "I respect Jody (Gage) for making the call...I am glad to still be involved in the game with Rochester."
Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres said O'Toole's knowledge will benefit the goaltending tandem of Matt Vinc and Aaron Bold. He will join a staff that includes Head Coach Mike Hasen, and assistant coaches Jason Johnson and Paul Day.
"Matt Vinc is very business-like in his approach to the game and well-prepared," said Styres. "O'Toole will use his experience to help Matt's game flourish."
O'Toole played for three teams over his career: Rochester, Buffalo and New York (Saints). He was a workhorse in goal, logging 10,285 minutes while finishing his career as the NLL's all-time saves leader with 6,464. He won two championships, 1996 with Buffalo and 2007 with Rochester, and earned a record of 115-56. He also registered an 11.40 goals-against average and a .768 save percentage.
Not bad numbers for a goalie that was out of a job in December of 1998. It was Day and General Manager Jody Gage that gave the then 27 year old from Brampton, Ontario, another shot at playing pro lacrosse. For the next 13 seasons, O'Toole rewarded them for making that phone call in late January.
"I was sitting at home after one of the Rock games and didn't know what to think. I was still fairly young," said O'Toole. "The next day, Jody called me and said 'Chugger' went down and wanted to know if I could backup Derek General. I backed up for the next three games and then became the starter."
O'Toole was the backstop of the defense for 13 seasons and his accomplishments may go unmatched in team history. O'Toole is the franchise's all-time leader in wins (102) and saves (5,756). He also is second in games played with 173. In 173 games in Rochester, he recorded a 102-51 record, an 11.21 goals-against average and a .771 save percentage.
The 38 year old revolutionized the game as he became a legitimate scoring threat in the later stages of a game, scoring three goals as a Rochester Knighthawk, which is the NLL record for goals by a goaltender. He also chipped in 136 assists, hitting teammates with memorable floor-length passes.
O'Toole stands as Rochester's all-time leader in postseason wins (9) and saves (644). Additionally, he guided the Knighthawks to Finals appearances in 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2007. He was one of the keys to Rochester's 17-2 championship season in 2007.
"He was the main reason," said Hasen about the role O'Toole played in the title. "When we needed him he was always there. That was his best season of lacrosse."
"The 2007 championship was the highlight, but not just the game," added O'Toole. "It was the run up to it. Everyone played their roles and we always found a way to win."
The fan favorite had his own chant, as the fans answered the public address announcer's question. After he yelled, what time is it? They screamed, "Tool Time." O'Toole was also popular amongst his teammates as he was three times voted the team's MVP. He was also a two-time All-Pro and the league's 2003 Goaltender of the Year. O'Toole will still get to spend time with the guys, but he will miss the race to his goal crease every Saturday night.
"I will definitely miss it. Nothing can replace the feeling you get when you are running out on the floor and the adrenalin you get as a player," said O'Toole. "I think any coach would say after going from playing to coaching."
O'Toole was originally drafted by the New York Saints in 1995. He played for the Buffalo Bandits (1996-98) and was a member of the 1996 MILL championship team. That season, he led the MILL in save percentage and was named the Bandits' Best Defensive Player. Further, he was MVP of the MILL Championship Game. O'Toole would then sign with the Knighthawks as a free agent on January 23, 1999 and the rest, they say, is history.
"Paddy and I had a couple of great days of discussions in being the goalie coach. I was happy to hear that he didn't want it to be just a token job, but that he really wanted to take the position to a new level," said Gage. "What's more exciting is that we have two dedicated goalies in Matt Vinc and Aaron Bold and the young guys will benefit from his experience and the information he will be able to provide them.
"Pat is a great student of the game and can pass that along," added Gage. "He can also help our shooters by knowing the other tendencies of the goalies in the league. He will be doing video work similar to hockey goalie coaches. I think it's a good fit and I am glad to have him onboard."
On Saturday, January 8th, Rochester will travel to play the Minnesota Swarm. It will be the start of the 2011 season and the beginning of another phase in the Hall of Fame career of Pat O'Toole. When asked if his pregame meal of a hamburger and fries would remain the same, he said that is another thing that will change.
"It is a new beginning and a new challenge," said O'Toole.
The Knighthawks will open the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, January 15th against the Toronto Rock at 7:35 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena.