Tri-City Americans

Toll hopes Ams career ends at Memorial Cup

For the last five years, Jarrett Toll has given his heart and soul to the Tri-City Americans. Toss in a fractured jaw, a broken rib and a few devastating losses, and you can add blood, sweat and tears to the list.

The overage defenseman has made his mark with the organization: playing 274 career games, being named team captain this season and holding the team record for games played in the playoffs with 47 going into Tuesday's Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at Vancouver. The series is tied at one game apiece.

"I couldn't have asked for a better place to play," said Toll, who ranks fifth on the all-time games played list. "It's been a second home to me. We've been successful except for the first year."

During his time with the Americans, Toll has helped the team win three straight U.S. Division titles and a Scotty Munro trophy for the best record in the league in 2008, and he has anchored the defense as Tri-City reached the Western Conference finals twice in three seasons.

"To be a part of that and those teams are memories I'll never forget," Toll said as he looked up at the division banners hanging from the Toyota Center rafters. "This is my last chance to win the third round -- something Tri-City has never done."

A native of Maple Ridge, B.C., Toll was selected in the fifth round of the of the 2004 WHL bantam draft. His hard work and dedication to the team led to his captaincy, and he's helped first-year coach Jim Hiller ease seamlessly into his job.

"You want that from your captain," Hiller said. "He's been part of big wins, been in pressure situations, and that experience is immeasurable."

For goalie Drew Owsley, Toll has been an inspiration.

"Everyone looks up to him," Owsley said. "He's one of the hardest working guys on the team. You know what you are going to get from him."

Toll has played most of his career seven hours from his hometown, but that hasn't kept parents Greg and Cherilynn and grandparents Dorne and Lorraine Cornish from taking in the action in the states and north of the border.

They all have made the long trip across the U.S-Canadian border more times than they'd like to count over the years to watch him play.

But during the Americans' playoff run this year, Toll's family has gotten to save a little gas and get a bit more sleep as Tri-City has played teams in his own backyard.

Tri-City opened the playoffs against Chilliwack, a mere 30-minute drive from Maple Ridge. Then came Kelowna, which is a bit further at three hours. Now the Americans are playing the Vancouver Giants, whose home rink is less than an hour's drive.

"My family has been to almost every game," said Toll, whose parents attend most games, but his grandparents are a regular fixture at nearly every game home and on the road. "Having fans on the road is nice. One of the joys of being retired is they get to travel. It's nice to see them and have them here to talk to."

Maple Ridge is a town of roughly 70,000 people just east of Vancouver. It's home to former Major League Baseball player Larry Walker and NHL stars Cam Neely, Brendan Morrison and Andrew Ladd. But Toll's name gets tossed around a bit in the hockey and lacrosse worlds.

"If you talk to people in sports, they know who he is in Maple Ridge," said Vancouver winger Connor Redmond, who along with Toll brings the number of Maple Ridge players in the WHL this season to four. "He's a really good athlete and he's also good at lacrosse. We know each other in passing, skating around in the summer and stuff. With so few of us in the WHL, it's kind of neat to match up with him in the finals."

Toll's WHL career will soon be over and he knows college is in his future, but he's not sure which one. The University of British Columbia, coached by former Americans player and assistant coach Milan Dragicevic, has been courting him.

"I haven't decided yet, but playing for UBC would be nice," Toll said. "There are couple of other schools I've been looking at. School is the next step for me unless something amazing happens."

Once his hockey days come to an end with the Americans, Toll said he will stick around the Tri-Cities for another month or so to finish getting his pilot's license.

"I have about 20 or 25 hours left and I have to complete ground school," Toll said.

If Toll has his way, he won't be taking to the skies until June, long after the Memorial Cup plays out May 14-23 at Westman Place in Brandon.

"It would be nice," he said, "to take this to Brandon."