March 18 is a date Rob and Mandy Toffoli will not forget. That night they watched their son, Tyler Toffoli, 20, score his first NHL goal.
“When he scored his first goal he got a standing ovation,” Rob Toffoli said. “You could see him trying to not look up at the big screen. It was pretty cool.”
It was one of many games they have watched their son play over the years. Tyler Toffoli’s had a long career in hockey, despite his young age. He started playing in his hometown of Scarborough and has played in the OHL for the Ottawa 67s and in the AHL for the Manchester Monarchs. He was selected 47th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2010 NHL draft. He made his NHL debut in March.
According to his parents, Tyler’s interest in hockey started at an early age. He was surrounded by the sport. It was on TV at home and he watched his dad and cousin play. No matter what toys his mom would give him, if it wasn’t something he could hit, throw or kick, Tyler didn’t want to see it.
Before his second birthday, Tyler hijacked his sister’s Fisher Price in-line skates and rarely took them off, even when he went to bed.
“I pitied the people in the apartment below us because it was loud,” Mandy said. “But he always wanted them on.”
When he was born we didn’t put a Leafs cap on him and say: ‘Yeah he’s going to the NHL.’
— Mandy Toffoli
At only three, Tyler joined his first house league team, the Agincourt Canadians. His parents had to get special permission for him to play, because of his young age. Before he was six, he was trying out for teams of eight-year-old kids. His talent was recognized early on and he was sponsored from a young age.
“If he hadn’t been sponsored, he wouldn’t be where he is,” Mandy said.
One of his main sponsors was Harvey Shapiro, former owner of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, the team that Tyler played for in the GTHL.
“He’s the one who took care of Tyler. He’s a very generous guy,” Rob said.
The Toffolis dedicated their lives to hockey and contributed their time any way they could. Tyler was dedicated from an early age, never missing a game, even when he was sick. At 10, he announced that he was determined to play at the OHL level and never gave up on his dream to play in the NHL.
“When he was born we didn’t put a Leafs cap on him and say: ‘Yeah he’s going to the NHL.’ It was never like that,” Mandy said. “The more he played the better he got.”
His drive and hard work led him to where he is now. He moved away from home when he was 16. Trips back to Scarborough are few and far between and when he does make it, it’s more a visit than a homecoming.
By now, Mandy and Rob are used to their son’s absence, they’ve made peace with it and for good reason.
“He’s living his dream, you can’t ask for anything else,” Mandy said.