Features | 1/26/2012 11:38:05 AM | Chris Ryndak
Over the last 14 years, it's probably been easier to find Carmen Sandiego than Mat Giles.
A quick look at his career stats sheet reads like a “Who's Who” of the NLL: Toronto, Albany, Columbus, Montreal, Ottawa, Rochester, Toronto (again), Edmonton, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Minnesota and now Buffalo. His time in most of those cities was brief and twice he was traded during the season. Since the Buffalo Bandits forward started his NLL career in 1999, he's played for 12 different franchises.
“It sort of sneaks up on you,” Giles said. “Early in my career, you're just happy to sort of be playing. By the end of it, you end up playing for a lot of the same coaches, so you're still very comfortable when you go [to a new place].”
The familiarity with many different coaches has helped him adapt quickly to his new surroundings, no matter who he's on the floor with. Having a strong understanding of the game and different systems has helped him fit in as well.
“I'm used to moving around. I've played all over the North American, U.S. league,” Giles said. “I've had a lot of the same coaches, but at the same time, different teams.”
Despite all the moving, Giles has been fortunate enough to avoid traveling long distances for home games. The Peterborough, Ont. native has played along the East Coast for a majority of his career, with the one major exception being last season in Minnesota. Even though Minnesota isn't in the Pacific Time Zone, not every game is played at home, of course. With the Swarm nestled in the Western Division, the travel out West was unavoidable.
“When you're an Eastern player and you're going all the way across the country to play, it's not flying into Minnesota so much as they're playing a West Coast team. So you're playing against the Calgarys, the Edmontons, the Washingtons,” Giles explained. “They do a lot more flying. When you're from the East and you're playing in the East, travel's a lot easier. It also provides an opportunity for my family to come down and watch me.”
The Bandits acquired Giles in October from Minnesota in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft. The Swarm debuted this season with a much younger lineup. Twelve new players suited up in their opener, including eight rookies.
“With the way Minnesota was going, they were going way younger and they were rebuilding. I had a great time there,” Giles said. “There were just going in a direction where they didn't need a guy like me in there. It was good to feel wanted by Buffalo and I'm happy to be there.”
It was actually the late Les Bartley, who coached the Bandits to three titles in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League, that got Giles into professional lacrosse. According to Giles, Bartley owned a cottage in Peterborough and they would watch summer games together. Bartley invited him to try-out for the Rock in 1999 and he made the team.
Toronto went on to win the NLL championship that season, their first in Toronto. Giles played in only two games that year and didn't dress in the playoffs, but he was surrounded by players like Jim Veltman, Russ Heard and Dan Stroup.
Buffalo, with Darris Kilgour in his 10th season behind the bench, has a number of experienced players on their roster including John Tavares, Tracey Kelusky, Mark Steenhuis and Chris White. Giles says that the 2012 Bandits are probably the first team he's been on with as much veteran presence as that Rock team in his rookie year.
“I haven't seen it in a long time when you get so much maturity and so much willingness just to do for another guy, another player on our team instead of looking to create your own sort of stuff,” Giles said.
He was one of three new forwards added by Buffalo in the off-season, including Kevin Buchanan and Luke Wiles. A right-hand shot, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Giles has been used to create space on that side for players like Wiles and Kelusky. He's also been able to produce on his own as well, with four points (2+2) in his first two games.
It's still early in the year, but Giles says that he's enjoying his first season in Banditland so far.
“Obviously we're doing well as a team. We're playing well as an offense. It's an exciting time right now playing for Darris,” Giles said. “He's one of the best coaches in the league. I get a little different aspect because I've played for so many coaches and I've seen the best of the best... and playing for [Darris] has been nothing but a joy.”