The lacrosse community is small and tight-knit, and this season is a full-circle moment for the O’Toole family and Aaron Bold.
The Warriors veteran goaltender is in his 18th season in the NLL and has been around long enough to be on the same team as both NLL Hall of Fame goaltender Pat O’Toole and his son Connor.
Bold was a backup to Pat in 2010 with the Rochester Knighthawks and Connor is a netminder at Brock University and was taken 18th overall by Vancouver in the 2023 NLL Entry Draft.
“When we drafted him, I had to do a double-take, like ‘This is Paddy O’Toole’s son?!’” Bold exclaimed, adding with a laugh “I guess I should be more of a super-vet.”
He’s living the best of both worlds as he doesn’t feel his age, but he has wisdom having been in the league for a while.
Bold said it was a great experience playing with Pat and his willingness to learn helped him go from backup to starting goaltender.
“While I was in Rochester, Paddy was an amazing mentor, and he was never shy to weigh in when I’d ask questions and that’s something I’m an advocate for young players to do: ask questions. You don’t know if you don’t ask. Especially if you’re not getting the reps, one of the hardest things is figuring out what you need to improve on,” Bold said.
Connor recalls his days as a ball boy for the Knighthawks, making sure the balls didn’t cross the centre line during warm-ups. As a seven-year-old, he remembers his dad’s teammates making him feel welcome and Bold tossing the ball around with him too.
“He’s one of the nicest humans ever, he’s a great person,” Connor said. “He’s always helping out where he can. When I was growing up, I wanted to be one of the guys on my Dad’s team and I’d be in the locker room hanging out before the game. Aaron would take the time to have conversations with me, he’d play pass with me on the floor before practice sometimes too.”
It was no surprise to Connor that Bold reached out to him after the NLL Entry Draft and again leading up to training camp, letting Connor know he can lean on him for whatever he needs. As Connor strives to take his game to the next level, he’s thrilled to have an example like Bold, who treats practices like games and is intentional about improving every time he steps on the floor.
“That’s something I really admire about him is how professional he is,” Connor said.
Pat agreed wholeheartedly with his son that Bold is the consummate professional and a wealth of knowledge — suggesting Connor learn as much from Bold as he can to incorporate into his own game.
“Guys like Boldy and Vino [Matt Vinc] they kind of broke the mold with goaltending with their physical fitness and being jacked. We used to joke that the goalies before them, including myself, were the bigger guys on the team that played in the net because we couldn’t run,” said the NLL Hall of Famer with a big laugh.
“I think he was one of the pioneers for things like that. That was key for their success, their preparation and treating their bodies year-round like professionals.”
The 38-year-old Bold recalled back to his first tryout in the NLL with the Portland Lumberjax, getting on the floor 30 minutes before the tryout and taking extra shots. He worked his way into the backup spot that season behind Dallas Eliuk, and head coach Derek Keenan kept him on the active roster.
As a 20-year-old, all Bold did in Portland that season was work on his game.
His intensity and love for the game is still the same as it was when he was a rookie.
“When I do things for the team to help us succeed and I see everybody smiling, that’s my why,” Bold said, sharing that he really pushes himself to mentally prepare for games. “Sometimes I’ll say, ‘I’m willing to lay my life on the line for anybody on that team’ and sometimes I have to go that extreme into my mental focus to get there,’ and I love doing that stuff. I do game planning every game, motivational videos, tapping into the mental aspect and of course I tie it into my religious beliefs as well.”
Every athlete strives for consistency and Pat says Bold’s steadiness has been the key trait that sets him apart.
“He’s been good for years and I think that’s because he’s prepared, when he’s in the net he doesn’t venture too far off his style which has been very successful. He’s consistent and focused all game,” Pat shared.
Bold felt his was dialed in against the Georgia Swarm, in that right mental state that a goalie needs to be in to have no fear and a lot of confidence. He stopped 35 of the 42 shots he faced against a Swarm team which has a boatload of offensive weapons.
“I was just focusing on my path, my process, and sometimes we just have to simplify to get the outcome that we want,” he said.
Bold and Pat, assistant coach of the Knighthawks, will have a reunion this weekend as the Warriors match up against the expansion era Rochester team. It’ll be all business from the opening faceoff, but there’s a lot of respect between the two and, as expected, they’re both prepped and ready for the challenge.