News | 11/23/2010 9:22:25 AM | Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits hit the turf at HSBC Arena on Sunday for their first practice of the upcoming 2011 season.
The more notable players returning to the team this year are forwards Mark Steenhuis, Roger Vyse, Kyle Clancy, and, of course, John Tavares. Tavares is entering his 20th season for the Buffalo Bandits and is recognized as the all-time leading scorer in NLL history. The 42-year-old admits it’s tough to start the first practice of the year, but the tension eases up quickly.
“I asked my wife to put my bag in my car because it looked really heavy, since I’m too old,” he said. “Once I get my stick in my hand, then it’ll be nice to be back. Now it’s like, ‘oh man,’ line after line and driving two hours to get here can be a pain, but it’s nice to be able to do it.”
The Bandits lost some key veterans like Mike Accursi and Kevin Dostie, but they made significant moves to improve their roster. Buffalo acquired former Rookie of the Year and two-time NLL Champion Tracey Kelusky in an October trade with Calgary. The team also traded for Brendan Thenhaus and acquired Scott Self and Jay Thorimbert from Minnesota back in August. In addition, the Bandits drafted Travis Irving ninth overall in the 2010 NLL draft.
“We’re really excited going into the season, and we think we’ve improved,” said Head Coach Darris Kilgour. “Last year we turned it around halfway through the year, so we knew we could compete with everybody in the league as we were. With the changes, I think we’re improved, so we have high expectations going into this year.”
Buffalo had a rough start to the 2010 season, but they turned it around midway through the season and ended up making the playoffs. Perhaps the biggest reason for the Bandits’ early struggles was due to an injury to John Tavares. Tavares missed the first half of the season, but gave his team immediate results when he returned.
“It was really tough for a young team to play through the injuries, but when Tavares returned to the lineup, they started gelling and got to .500 to claim a playoff berth,” said assistant coach Rich Kilgour. “After that start, and with all the veteran losses, I thought they would have a tough year, but true to Bandit form they kept playing to the bitter end and made the playoffs when everyone thought they wouldn’t have,”
The Bandits have eight practices and two scrimmages before their season opener in Calgary on January 8. Buffalo has an open practice on Sunday, December 5 at HSBC Arena from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.