For decades, Banditland has stood out as an atmosphere like no other in the National Lacrosse League. From the pregame bagpipes to the loud, energetic fans, the experience provides wonderful memories for both the Buffalo Bandits and their fans. But these moments would be nothing without one special person behind the microphone: Chris “Swennie” Swenson.
Swenson has been the Bandits’ public address announcer since the team was established in 1992, engraving himself as a crucial part of every home game and coining the term “Banditland.” For his dedication to and impact on the organization and its fans, Swenson was honored for 30 years of service prior to Buffalo’s regular-season home game Saturday night.
“His voice over the games is a part of the experience. I’m sure everybody would say that,” Bandits forward Tehoka Nanticoke said. “When you come to games, he’s part of the reason why you’re coming. It’s a part of Banditland and his voice brings back a lot of memories for me, from when I was just a kid sitting in the stands.”
Like many other young Bandits fans, Nanticoke spent his childhood playing lacrosse in the backyard and trying to say his own name in Swenson’s voice. After being selected by the Bandits with the third-overall pick in the 2021 NLL Draft, Nanticoke finally got to hear Swennie say his name for real.
“Every kid would dream of that, especially if you’re a kid coming to Banditland,” Nanticoke said. “You definitely dream about Swennie and Banditland screaming your name. It was a dream come true coming here, getting drafted here. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”
The lively experience in Buffalo has been made possible with Swenson’s unique chants and phrases such as “WHAT’S HE GOT?” and “WHOSE HOUSE?” His voice and creativity help keep the crowd actively engaged in the game, making every play exciting and creating a difficult environment for opposing teams to play in.
“It’s game changing,” two-time MVP Dhane Smith said. “You can see the top teams around the league kind of copy him. He’s so creative, he gets everybody involved, and I think that’s what makes it a party atmosphere in Banditland.
“He means so much to this team and this organization and he means a lot to me. He’s the first guy to come in here and say hi to everyone in the locker room, always has a smile on his face, and we can’t thank him enough.”
Bandits coach John Tavares has had the opportunity to hear Swenson’s legendary calls as a player on the field, and now, from the bench. While Tavares remains focused on the game, he never has to worry about the crowd losing interest.
“As a coach, I’m so focused on the game that I don’t actually hear the crowd,” Tavares said. “But when it is quiet, I know that I’ve got Chris there on my side to keep the crowd into the game and motivate the guys a little bit more.”
As teams around the league have tried to duplicate Swenson’s calls, Tavares has always been impressed by Swenson’s professionalism over the years.
“He’s very professional about it,” Tavares said. “We’ve been in other arenas where sometimes the announcer is a little bit insulting to other teams, but he is very professional. He does a great job of keeping everybody involved and into the game.
“There is no better place to play than Buffalo because the fans are so dedicated, large in numbers, and because of how boisterous they are. Chris is the reason why.”
As fans continue to fill the seats in KeyBank Center on game nights, only one thing is certain. There is no Banditland without Swennie.