The Buffalo Bandits were established as a lacrosse team in Buffalo in 1992. To quickly show this city what they were made of, they dominated the championship that year, and again the following year. Since then, the team has triumphantly brought home the cup two more times in 1996 and 2008.
One of the key components of these four championships was the man, the myth, the legend himself, Johnny Tavares. He played with the Buffalo Bandits from 1992 until 2015 when he finally hung up his cleats and his name went up in the rafters of KeyBank Center right next to Rich and Darris Kilgour’s. However, his career with the team did not stop there. He joined the coaching staff and now has been the head coach for three seasons.
I have been proudly representing the black and orange for all my life. However, in 2015, I became very immersed in the team, statistics, and watching every game. Ever since that
season, I have been hooked on everything around the Bandits. From the constant music playing, to the fast pace 30-second shot clock; the atmosphere in the arena when a goal is scored is electric. Another tradition that never fails to make me smile is all our chants. Once you go to a game, you will quickly learn that you boo the refs when they come out, you scream B-O-X when the opposing team gets a penalty, and that when someone asks, “BUFFALO WHAT?!” …. you reply “BANDITS!” with all your heart and soul.
I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to watch the legend Johnny Tavares play, retire, and coach. He will always be my top favorite Bandit but as the seasons progress my favorite list continues to grow. Just to name a few highlights: Mark Steenhuis, Steve Priolo, Chase Fraser, Josh Byrne, Chris Cloutier, and Tehoka Nanticoke. All these warriors have amazing lacrosse skills but, unlike other professional sport players, they may also have a full-time job on top of their games and practices. The outside jobs vary from office workers to first responders, to schoolteachers and much more. Therefore, when you purchase a game ticket or merchandise you are not just supporting players, you are supporting the heroes that have formed the backbone of our world since day one.
Written by Sara Dembski
All photographs were taken by Lee Nanticoke of nanticokephotography