Features | 2/2/2011 11:27:43 AM | Michael Jafari
Bandits defenseman Scott Self has been nothing short of a journeyman in the National Lacrosse League, crisscrossing North America each winter to play the game he loves. Now, the veteran may have finally found a home in Buffalo.
In his 11-year career, Self played for seven different NLL teams before returning for his second stint with the Bandits this season. Self is no stranger to traveling, as the defenseman has commuted to every NLL city in which he has played from his home in Canada throughout his career.
“I never actually moved out (to my team’s city), I always commuted. I had an option to move to Arizona in my second year there, but I had a girlfriend at the time, and I didn’t think it would have been good for us, so I decided I would just fly in,” recalled Self. “I started to stick with that, and as I got older I got a job that wouldn’t allow me to move out there. It was pretty tough, so I’m glad to be back in the east because it’s a lot less commuting, which is nice.”
Self, who now also works as a sales representative for the Frito Lay Company in Durham, Ontario, grew up playing ice hockey in Peterborough. When he was seven years old, he picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time and knew right then and there that it felt right.
“Both of my brothers, one older and one younger, got into lacrosse before I did, and after going to the rink watching them, I decided I would give it a try. Obviously, I loved it, so I stuck with it.”
After high school, Self was drafted by the Bandits in the fourth round of the 2000 Entry Draft. However, he delayed the chance to play for the Bandits so he could go to school at the University of Guelph where he played collegiate hockey.
“I played junior lacrosse and junior hockey in Peterborough, and I decided to go to school to play hockey there. They had field lacrosse at school, but I wasn’t overly into it, so I played hockey there for the first three years,” said Self. “ I got drafted by the Bandits, and I started practicing with the team while I was in my third year of school. The following year I got traded to New York and kind of decided that I would pursue my lacrosse career and give up on hockey.”
Despite devoting his time to school, Self would still see NLL action in 2001 when he was called upon by the Bandits to play with the team late in the season.
“It took awhile because of my hockey commitment. When I first started, there weren’t a lot of teams, so it was tough to get a job anywhere. Back then they had that rule where if you don’t play you don’t get paid a lot, and since Buffalo wasn’t going to make the playoffs anyway, they brought me in since I didn’t make a lot of money. I’m not sure why else they brought me in, but regardless, it was exciting,” Self reminisced.
His real journey would begin after his rookie campaign with the Bandits, with stops in New York and Ottawa. He finally got settled with the Arizona Sting in 2004 and would spend four seasons with the club. In that span, Self went to two NLL Championship games and collected 69 points, 64 penalty minutes and 312 loose balls in 61 games played during his four-year stint in the desert.
“It was great (to play in Arizona). In my first three years in the league I played for three different teams, and I got lucky and landed with a fairly young team,” recalled Self. “It was a really good place to play because we had a great group of guys and the winters were nice and warm.”
Despite the team’s two championship appearances, the franchise suspended operations in 2007, which left Self in the hunt to find another team. With fewer teams in the league, it meant that fewer roster spots were available. However, Self never let the competition bother him, and he took the opportunity in stride.
“I always knew there was that core group of franchises that would always be around. I don’t know if I envisioned that I would be playing ten years later, but I just kind of go with the flow anyways so I wasn’t too worried about it,” said Self.
Self continued his tour of the West and Midwest with stops in Chicago, Edmonton and Minnesota. In the offseason, Self came back to Buffalo in a trade with Minnesota that also netted Jay Thorimbert in exchange for a pair of draft picks. Although he was on the move for the seventh time in his career, Self was excited to play for a team he was familiar with and that was close to home.
“I remember getting a text message from Chris White the day I got traded. It was before I talked to anyone else on the Bandits, and right away I was pumped,” recalled Self. “I knew from playing against Buffalo that this is a great place to play with great fans, and I was excited that I wouldn’t be traveling as much.”
The Bandits picked up Self in an effort to bolster their defensive unit. The team lost defensive standout Billy Dee Smith for the season after the 2009 NLL Defensive Player of the Year injured his knee while playing in the world outdoor championships over the summer.
"We always knew (Scott) was a stellar player. We've seen him for years," Bandits Assistant General Manager Derek Graham said. "I got a text during the world outdoor championships that Billy Dee Smith had gone down with a knee injury. When I heard it was an ACL, I thought we'd better find a replacement. He's an excellent defender who gives us room in transition. He's not a replacement for Billy Dee, but he is as close as you can get. He's a great leader, a great guy, and a rock-solid first-team defender."
Through four games this season, Self has two goals and two assists and is tied for the team-lead with 29 loose balls.
On January 22, Self suited up for the Bandits in Buffalo for the first time in ten years and made quite an impression on the fans. Self netted the game-winning goal in overtime of the Bandits’ 2011 home opener when he scored on a breakaway to help the Bandits beat the Toronto Rock, 15-14.
“It was definitely the biggest goal of my NLL career. I couldn’t believe it happened, because it went on so quickly, and when I actually scored I was in disbelief since I don’t score a lot of goals. It was awesome because the crowd was going crazy, and my parents were there, so I was excited.”