From one end of the coast to another and back in a matter of 33 hours, the Bandits gave a yeoman’s effort with their two-game weekend, posting a convincing win in Vancouver and then playing a tough, tough game in Toronto. Not much time to enjoy and heal from both scenarios as the two games were entirely different.
Friday night’s 15-8 victory over Vancouver was poetry in motion as the offense was spectacular. Sunday’s matinee ended up with the team swamped in molasses, fighting battered and bruised to the bitter end of a 13-9 loss.
Rock goaltender Nick Rose saw the ball really well Sunday afternoon, shutting out the Bandits offense in the third and fourth quarters with 28 saves. He also got help from his goal posts as they were smacked a handful of times by the Bandit snipers.
“You have to give Rosie some credit. I thought we had some opportunities, but he forced us to take some bad shots, hitting him in the belly and missing shots as well,” Bandits head coach John Tavares said. “He’s a good goalie, one of the best in the league, and he did a great job.
“We had a few guys dropping off a bit, definitely a little injury bug going through the team right now, but it’s something teams have to fight through and find a way to win.”
The five-game was winning streak snapped, the regular-season series with the Rock is tied, and the Bandits drop back to second in the North. But as Bandit defenseman Justin Martin said on the radio postgame show on Sunday, the winning streak was good, the weekend was 1-1, and now it’s time to prepare for Philadelphia.
Come Fly with Me: A Coast-To-Coast Journey
For the last 17 seasons, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of traveling with the team to do the radio play-by-play for the games, which includes a half-hour pregame show, halftime interviews and a post-game segment.
Preparation is an understatement as you constantly remain at post – researching, learning, and listening. You never can absorb enough in gearing up for a game, even when the 80/20 rule applies. Simply put, you use 20 percent of your roster notes and background information, with the other 80 percent unused because of time or didn’t fit or in my case sometimes, forgotten.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve scolded myself for missing a note I could have used! But, like the players, you move on, hoping you do better the next game.
In between all of the prep, there is time to enjoy the comradery of team travel, albeit at arm’s length of the players, with small talk, game-related discussions and most importantly, a lot of laughs. Too, visiting the NLL cities and venues can be enlightening and interesting but you are shrouded under time constraints which includes a strict itinerary.
Everyone arrives on their own, on time, to the departing airport (Buffalo or Toronto) with the contingent totaling 28 players and personnel. Commercial flights to visiting cities range from one to five hours with two and three-time zone changes. The recently completed trip to Vancouver was five hours, with a three-hour time difference. These flights and accommodations are booked months in advance.
Travel can be grueling at times with delays and connections. You have to be prepared and remain calm when situations arise.
Such was the case last Friday night in Vancouver when Scott Loffler, Bandits senior director of lacrosse operations, received a phone call at the start of the Bandits/Warriors game from the air carrier that was going to take the team back to Toronto. They informed him that the early morning flight was canceled.
Their suggestion of re-booking, which included a late Saturday afternoon departure and transfer of planes with a 6:30 a.m. Sunday arrival in Toronto obviously wouldn’t work, what with the 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon game against the Rock.
Quickly, Loffler and crew scrambled to find another air carrier with space available for 28 personnel and an early Vancouver departure time that would put the team back in Toronto by late afternoon, similar to the previously scheduled flight plan.
After a volley of calls and manifest maneuvering, the Bandits flight was re-booked on a different air carrier and all was back to normal. And you know what? Most of us had no idea of the harrowing moments that Loffler experienced.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) February 11, 2020
Upon arrival in the opponent’s city, equipment and baggage are the responsibility of each player and staff member, which is loaded onto a bus provided by the host city.
From there, travel to the hotel can be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Check-in most of the time goes smoothly as room packets are prepared in advance and distributed in pairs with roommates assigned.
Following a good sleep, the next day begins for me with a zero-dark early workout in the hotel’s fitness center. Regularly, I am joined by Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich as the two of us are dedicated to achieving reasonable shape. I was recently nicknamed by a flight passenger “Big Rig,” so you get the idea.
A quick breakfast, then a 7:15 am bus to the arena where the team sets up camp, preparing equipment and workout gear, and attending video sessions, which includes segments of the opponents and Bandits performances with the coaching staff.
Offense and defense, too, have their own sessions. They are pretty intense and loaded with a lot of technical parts and installation of systems. I am at times allowed to sit in under full confidentiality, which gives me a different perspective of the upcoming game.
Following a check-in with arena operations and site location of where I will call the game, I touch base with the technical director who will engineer the game with me, complete with sound equipment (mixing board, headsets with mics, outside the dressing room interview location, crowd noise, PA and referee mics and digital transmission platforms).
This arrangement has been scheduled well in advance of our visit, which is handled by Tom Matte, chief engineer at Entercom Communications here in Buffalo. I am not a plug-and-play type of guy and having an engineer with equipment to mix your game is a godsend – and all of them do a great job in sending the game back for you to enjoy.
Once my check-in is complete, I track down the opposing coach and a player for a quick audio interview, which is used in the pre-game show. I do spend some time with the coach, either on the phone midweek or following my interview on gameday.
By that time, the Bandits are out on the floor for the gameday shootaround, which lasts about an hour. Watching from the stands or bench gives me a chance to see the team’s warmups, drills, and on-field coaching.
Following the morning shootaround, the team boards the bus back to the hotel for lunch, where the kitchen staff lays out a nice buffet of salads, vegetables, pasta, and broiled chicken. No sweets or coffee.
From there, it’s free time (napping) until I start my final game prep at 3 p.m., finishing in time for a 4:45 p.m. bus back to the arena.
As warmups draw near, I interview Bandits head coach John Tavares for the one-on-one segment in the pregame show, and too, interview a player for the profile report in the show. Once I confirm with team personnel (Ted Cordingley, Dan Ristine or Loffler) to assist me in getting a player for the halftime show and a player and coach for the postgame report (generally there is a remote location wired with a headset and microphone right outside the Bandits dressing room), I head up to the broadcast location in the press box and complete my final prep.
This includes talking over the radio digital connection with producer Kyle Powell who is back at the radio station in Buffalo.
The engineer will send voice and interview playback levels as well as crowd noise for Kyle to mix on his control board. Powell has previously made contact with the on-site engineer, who is right next to me in the booth by sending programming to us (return air) which includes hearing the commercials and bumper music during media breaks and timeouts so I know when we are back live on the air and I can begin to babble.
Once the pregame show open hits, there is no looking back. For the next three hours, it’s all Bandits lacrosse programming! Check 1-2, is this mic on?
When the postgame show is done and we’ve signed off, I make my way back down to the Bandits dressing room, gather the rest of my stuff and board the bus back to the hotel.
Following a quick meal, it’s back to the bunkroom for yet another early alarm in order to make the bus to the airport for our return home/or next city.
It’s a dream job, announcing for a team. I wish I could do it all the time!
Catch the Game this Weekend with your Best Friend
The 5-3 Philadelphia Wings come to Buffalo this Saturday Night for their lone game of the season against the Bandits.
It’s Best Friends Night with specially priced tickets for you and your friend for the 7 p.m. faceoff.
Best Friends Night ticket offer!
🔸 $43 | Two 100-level end tickets
🔸 $30 | Two 300-level tickets
Promo code: FRIENDS
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) February 11, 2020
The Wings are coming off a bye week, having lost to Georgia 12-11 back on January 31. Former Bandit goaltender Zach Higgins makes his first return since being traded last summer. He’s ranked No. 1 in save percentage at .825.
Kevin Crowley leads in scoring for the Wings with 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points, 5th in the NLL scoring race.
Saturday’s game will be on B/R Live, ESPN 1520 AM and WGWE 105.9 FM in Salamanca. The radio pregame show starts at 6:30 p.m. with the game set for 7 p.m. Steve Bermel joins me in the booth with Dave Buchanan reporting from between the benches.