Garrett Toenjes of the Lightning High School Hockey League’s (LHSHL) Palm Harbor Hurricanes will admit to you that he’s not the “fastest” nor “strongest” skater out on the ice, but the senior forward may not be giving himself enough credit. Toenjes, 17, has been ice skating since he was four-years old and had played Travel Ice Hockey for almost a decade up until this season and for clubs such as the Junior Lightning.
While Toenjes may not be the tallest skater on the ice, one could make an argument that he’s still one of the strongest skaters in the LHSHL.
“He’s (Garrett) a tenacious thinker. Garrett is always thinking and attacks everything he does with tenacity,” said Palm Harbor Head Coach Mike Celona.
All one needs to do is attend a Hurricanes game, and keep a close eye out for number four on Celona’s High School team. The team’s leading goal-scorer’s tenacity is more than apparent out on the ice, especially when he has an opportunity to battle some of the league’s bigger defensemen in the corners or in front of the opposition’s net.
“I’ve never been the biggest, fastest or strongest player on the ice, so I’ve always had to really ‘think’ out there,” said Toenjes. “I’m never someone who can just burn by someone with speed, so it’s different when you’re ‘thinking’ rather than blowing by another player.”
Yet, the five-foot-nine skater is one of the league’s top point-getters at the moment with 19 goals and five helpers for a total of 24 points. And, Palm Harbor’s assistant captain has already recorded three hat tricks on the year as well. Keep in mind, the senior has accomplished these stat-totals in just ten games played to date. However, there’s more to Palm Harbor’s leader than what can be witnessed on the score sheet.
“Garrett has an ability to read the play and make good hockey decisions. He’s constantly thinking strategy with every play,” added Coach Celona.
But, in case anyone is wondering, Toenjes can produce offensive pressure and goal-scoring in various ways. There’s no arguing that the gritty forward seems to thrive when he’s battling his opponents for a loose puck in front of the goal mouth. Even a former travel coach, and now opposing LHSHL head coach, commented on the skater’s uncanny ability to compete.
“His biggest strength is his determination,” said River Ridge Head Coach Dean Loicano. The River Ridge coach had coached Toenjes in the past, when the 140-pound skater was a member of the Junior Lightning Travel Hockey team.
Keep in mind, it appears that a majority of young hockey players would prefer to finesse and impress out on the ice with skill assets such as stick handling and speed, rather than do the “dirty work” to earn goals, plus help a team achieve success. But, a majority would agree that Toenjes is not like most players.
“He will do the dirty work in front of the net and get the ‘garbage goals’,” added Liocano.
To no surprise, Toenjes’ overall attitude towards the sport and his teammates doesn’t stray far from his commendable play on the ice either.
“His attitude is always positive and he works hard to keep his teammates positive,” said Celona. “Regardless of the game’s score, Garrett always looks for the positive points and uses them to keep the team positive.”
On another positive note, the dynamic hockey player has excelled with his academics and other interest aside from finding the back of the net for the Hurricanes.
“I’ve always loved school,” said Toenjes. “I know a lot of people don’t, but I enjoy it.”
Toenjes skating for the Jr. Lightning
At Palm Harbor University High School, the youngster is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program, which is one of the most rigorist and competitive academic programs in the country. And, Toenjes is currently taking a few Accelerated Prep (AP) courses too.
Toenjes also expressed interest and a passion for reading, especially when it comes to History.
“I’m involved in a neighborhood book club, too,” said Palm Harbor’s assistant captain. “I’m known for picking the dark historical books, also.”
But, the hockey player’s chapter for reading and history doesn’t end with his book club.
“I love reading history, and my favorite book is ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ by Erich Maria Remarque; and I just love reading Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction,” added Toenjes.
The 17-year-old even joked about an old memory from going to the library during his Elementary School days.
Toenjes on Palm Harbor Lacrosse
“I’m the type of kid who goes directly to the non-fiction section of the library,” said a smiling Toenjes. “I remember in Elementary School they would have suggested reading sections and everyone would go to the fiction section, but I would just go straight to the early 1900’s and 1800’s sections.”
Yet, this History buff somehow manages to play another sport at Palm Harbor too. Toenjes is a member of the school’s Club Lacrosse team, where instead of scoring goals like in ice hockey, the blue-eyed wonder plays defense between the white lines.
“The concept of leverage and concept of offensive spacing is very similar (to hockey), but having played offense in hockey for the majority of my career – I get a different perspective playing defense in lacrosse now,” said Toenjes.
He also joked how he “doesn’t understand how people play offense in lacrosse” since players can “get whacked” out there on the field with lacrosse sticks.
In addition to lacing up cleats for lacrosse, the bright student used to play golf for his school, too. However, now Toenjes just serves as a manager for the Golf Team and just so he can play ice hockey with his fellow Hurricane teammates; because of the conflicting seasons with the two sports.
Though, soon enough, it will be time for Toenjes to leave Palm Harbor and move on to study at a University, somewhere. The Florida native would prefer to go to an institution out of state, and has a goal of hopefully attending an Ivy League School such as Harvard or Princeton.
Toenjes will consider and look to play either club lacrosse or ice hockey at which ever University he’ll end up attending, but he assured that “academics come first, so we’ll see.”
It’s evident that Garrett Toenjes is a student of the game for hockey and other sports, and embraces being an observer more times than not.
“I’d rather be the student, than the teacher. I think as the student, you’ll always get to learn more.”
(The Lightning High School Hockey League can be followed on Twitter @TBLHSHL)