GURT'S BLOG: PASSIONBlogs | 1/18/2011 7:14:03 PM | John Gurtler
Last week it was about personality. This week we are going to examine passion - for the game and for the other careers these players have outside of lacrosse.
Yes, it takes talent to play in the National Lacrosse League. It might be a second or two of running faster than others, an uncanny knack for moving the ball, the way a player sees the floor, passing ability, or shooting the ball to find net. To those of us not familiar with the real internals of the game, the composite make-up of an NLL-caliber player draws on a lot of criteria.
The cornerstone, though, is passion.
Saturday night there was a good dose of passion in the Bandits’ 9-6 win over the Philadelphia Wings. The defensive and transition games were excellent, giving way to only the opponents’ perimeter shots. There was also a heavy dose of physical presence if one roamed closer to the inside. Offensively, the Bandits performed well from those transitions, specifically in the fourth quarter. Buffalo’s Big Three of John Tavares, Tracey Kelusky and Mark Steenhuis each found net. Frank Resetarits scored on a highlight-reel feed from Tavares, set-up by Kelusky. Mike Thompson showed poise in goal with 39 saves. A good indication of who wanted it more was evident in the loose ball statistic, where the Bandits commanded in scoops by a 93-67 margin over the Wings.
Passion to play is so evident in this band of Bandits, and it starts with the coaching staff. They think and talk lacrosse all the time.
Friday night in Philadelphia, once the team settled into the hotel, I was privy to sit and have dinner with the Bandits staff, which included General Manager and Head Coach Darris Kilgour, Associate General Manager Derek Graham, Assistant Coach Duane Jacobs and my broadcast partner, Randy Mearns. Just listening to them talk about the game with such passion gave me even more respect than I already had for them and the current players.
They spoke of seasons past, from pee-wee to pro, and to hear them talk about games and antics “from back in the day” was interesting. So, too, were the vivid memories of various plays, goals, hits and fights. It was as if the incidents had occurred last week. And they were going back some twenty-five-or-so-years, to when they were playing juniors. The entire evening’s discussion was lacrosse. The banter was furious, even animated, from sitting in chairs to standing in reenactment. And yes, the reminiscing was loaded with hilarious moments, making for a great evening.
For players in the National Lacrosse League, everyone has undeniable passion and talent – you have too. “I play the game because I love it,” noted new Bandit and 10-year NLL veteran Scott Self during our pre-game interview with him. But, they also enjoy what they do during the week – their “day jobs.” From financial advisors and brokers to teachers, sales reps, construction workers, tradesmen and entrepreneurs, lacrosse players work in diverse industries away from the turf.
Sunday, as we traveled back to Buffalo, a few of us had to surrender our seats on the plane because it was overweight. It was a smaller jet and, due to all the gear in the baggage compartment, seats had to be eliminated and that took some volunteers. Five of us decided a later flight would be OK in order to release the aircraft from the gate. Not a problem for me and it actually turned out better as I spent some time talking with solid Bandits transition player, Tom Montour.
I felt Montour was the unsung Bandits player last season. A seven-year pro who hails from Ohsweken, Ontario, Six Nations, Tom started his career with Buffalo in 2005 then had stints with Portland and Chicago before returning in 2009. He runs like the wind and plays a tenacious style of game representative of “Bandit Ball.” His passion for the game goes deep, reflective of the team-leading 15 loose balls he picked up Saturday night.
While in general conversation sitting next to each other on the mid-afternoon flight back to Buffalo, I asked Tom about his other job, and he spoke with the same passion he does of playing lacrosse. “I’ve found something I like to do.” Montour is an ironworker, as is Clay Hill.
The position requires one to defy gravity while working on a perch some 100-plus feet up in the air. There is nothing but the elements and mother wind to balance oneself against the man-made ribbon of steel that comes together through the guidance of the crane operator and the lone man who waits up there to configure a super-structure. Tom enjoys what he does, indeed has a talent and spoke of it with a passion similar to the one he has for lacrosse.
There is nothing more important to Montour than winning an NLL Champions Cup with the Bandits and a Mann Cup (summer league) for his Six Nations team.
While I get heavy legs some four rungs up a ladder, my point is that passion runs through these players and they take pride in not only playing lacrosse, but also in what they do away from the turf.
The hours in the car to practice and games, the juggling of weekday work schedules, the responsibilities of family and the dedication to their trades.
On that subject, how about the game ahead for the Bandits’ home opener Saturday night at HSBC Arena? The 2-0 Toronto Rock, with a balanced scoring wave of Colin Doyle, Garrett Billings, Blaine Manning and Stephan Leblanc supported by solid defense and veteran netminding in Bob Watson dot the visiting roster. Not including any leftover feelings from the Dec. 15 preseason game, which included 32-game misconducts, this match-up goes right to the nerve for the Bandits after last spring’s playoff loss. Won’t take much to get stirred up for this one!
The pre-game radio broadcast starts at 7 p.m. on KB 1520 AM. Time Warner Cable television play-by-play and radio coverage follows at 7:30 p.m.