After winning their fifth championship in franchise history on June 3, the Buffalo Bandits’ players, staff and fans reassembled outside of KeyBank Center on Thursday to celebrate the team’s accomplishments and unwavering support from fans.
“It’s more of us saying ‘thank you’ to them,” goaltender Matt Vinc said. “A thank you for believing in us and not turning on us. As you know, we’ve had successful years, but never been able to fully deliver. It’s just a great opportunity to enjoy the moment with the fans. The people that bring the energy on a regular game-to-game basis and make Banditland and the experience here so extra special.”
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) June 15, 2023
The scene in Alumni Plaza was unlike last season’s, which saw the Bandits lose Game 3 of the 2022 NLL Finals to the Colorado Mammoth at KeyBank Center. While the team was left packing instead of celebrating, fans still took the time to show their support by cheering “Let’s go Bandits” following the loss.
The 2023 Finals seemed to be following the same script, as the Bandits took down the Mammoth 13-12 at home in Game 1 before dropping Game 2 by a score of 16-10 on the road in Colorado. It was the group’s perseverance and motivation from last season that changed the script and resulted in a 13-4 victory over the Mammoth in Game 3 and a championship rally in Buffalo.
“It’s kind of funny how the series ended up playing out with how similar it was to the year prior with winning here in Banditland and going to Colorado, kind of laying an egg, and having a one-game-take-all back here in Buffalo in front of a packed Banditland,” transition player Ian MacKay said.
“…Coming in to Game 3, it was just kind of that theme of unfinished business and let’s get this job done. We made a lot of adjustments going into Game 3. We really wanted to be more disciplined and play our best game we had all year, and I think we did that all over the floor.”
To celebrate the championship, fans had the opportunity to see players and coaches take the stage with the trophy and salute Banditland. From there, the Bandits led a procession down Washington Street to Sahlen Field, where the Buffalo Bisons hosted Lacrosse Night at the Ballpark and NLL Finals MVP Dhane Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Countless fans filled the streets and seats at the ballpark to honor their favorite team one more time before the players went their separate ways for the summer.
“Our fanbase is top notch and it’s cool to be able to interact with our fans and hear their stories and meet people who have been season ticket holders since the early ‘90s when they were winning in 1992 and 1993,” MacKay said. “To see that they’re still here watching games and able to experience this with us, it’s an awesome experience.”
Banditland has long been recognized as one of the sport’s most dedicated fanbases and the persistent support only continues to grow as lifelong fans bring their families along for the ride.
Prior to the 2023 championship, Joe Schubbe’s favorite Bandits memory was when he saw the team win the Cup back in 2008. At the rally, Schubbe, who stood alongside his nephew Patrick, sons Jackson and Jaylen, and wife Sarah, shared why this new memory meant so much more.
“There’s no better feeling in the world than to see the championship,” Schubbe said. “But I told my son, all I wanted to do was see the Bandits win a championship with my son. That’s all I wanted to see.”
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) June 16, 2023
After leading the B-O-X chants and others aimed at opposing players all season, Schubbe finally had his wish come true.
“It was unbelievable,” Schubbe said. “I’ve never heard the arena this loud before.”
“They just love us so much,” Priolo said about the fans in Banditland. “They want us to be so successful.”
“…They still love us even when we don’t deliver. We knew we had to pull through to have this parade and celebration because this city deserved a championship.”
When asked what the mindset is as defending champions looking ahead to next season, Priolo’s answer was simple.
“It starts now.”