TAKE A LOOK
How often have you walked past a trophy case with plaques and trophies showing space for the next champion? They stand stoically as reminders for those vying for the open areas, shiny bars and admirers of beautiful memories.
True, a picture is worth a thousand words. This photo represents the achievements of the Bandits’ five championship titles over three decades. For years, players have walked past this hallway marker in the team’s dressing room as a stark reminder of adding another year onto the fabled lumber.
The sacrifice, the pain, the sorrow. The smiles, yells of joy, and satisfaction.
This wood-grained presentation has absorbed it all, rarely pasted without notice.
Special Note: If you are planning to attend the Bandits home opener and on December 16, tickets are still available! The NLL Championship banner-raising ceremony will begin at 7:15 p.m.
With confidence and determination to add another year to the open space, the Bandits begin their regular-season journey this Saturday on the road against the feisty FireWolves.
Every team has made their offseason adjustments, added players, and instilled the hell-bent-for-leather attitude that they can do it, too. The level of competition keeps getting better and better in the NLL, this year especially.
With a 3-15 record last year, the Albany FireWolves rearranged their roster again by making way for some of the recent draft choices. They are building toward the arrival of their first-overall, generational pick from this past September, Dyson Williams, who will arrive next season.
And they are off to a good start with exceptional team play, resulting in a 12-10 victory last Saturday night over the Desert Dogs of Vegas. No less than 10 Albany players figured in scoring, which included first-rounder of ’22 Alex Simmons scoring his first two NLL career goals (2+3) and another first-rounder of ’22 Ty Kurtz (2+3).
“I am very impressed with what Glenn Clark (head coach and GM) and his staff are continuing to put together,” said Steve Dietrich, Bandits GM and defensive coordinator. “They have a group of talented young guys that play with excitement, and they have a world-class goaltender (in Doug Jamieson).”
“Our games with them are always hard-fought battles; we expect nothing different Saturday.”
The Bandits finished 1-1 last season against the FireWolves, and the club doesn’t need to remember what happened last year with the first game of the season, at home, losing to them.
PRACTICE? ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE?
The Bandits have their own homework assignments as they move into regular-season practice sessions, preparing their attack.
“The focus will be on continuing to acclimate the young guys with our systems and hopefully begin to work in a couple of our guys currently on the PUP list,” noted Dietrich.
“This week, we will be working on special teams to break in new guys to our short-man unit.”
And what about the new, new guy, forward Emerson Clark, recently acquired from the Desert Dogs.
“Emerson will be coming in to fight for a job. He brings a physical element to our group that we have lacked previously,” Dietrich said. “But we also believe that there is a lot more to Emerson’s game than what he gets credit for.”
Interestingly, the Bandits have always been diversified in coordinating talent with players with the skills for creative playmaking and scoring and a sense of defensive play.
You’ve seen it on occasion the past couple of seasons where players like Dhane Smith (who started his career with the Bandits going out the backdoor) and Josh Byrne sprint with the opposition in transition and stabilize on defense for a set or two.
I watched a couple of defensive alignments in the preseason game against Georgia, which included Carter McKenzie, Tehoka Nanticoke, Dalton Sulver, Justin Robinson, and Chase Fraser. And then, again, there was a complete set of forwards back on defense.
OLD SCHOOL BOX LACROSSE?
“We expect all of our offensive players to be able to run back and play defense. With Josh and Dhane, [coach Tavares] has run them out the back door on occasion to allow greater transition,” said Dietrich.
“Both guys are so talented that there is no drop-off with them on the defensive end of the floor.”
Ian MacKay has done it all, going out of the defensive zone with a “pick-six” mentality. All to keep the Bandits flow going.
Remember last week in Fast Break when coach Tavares said he looks at the players’ skills and how he can implement their strengths into the Bandits lineup?
I pressed him further.
“For example, if I have a lot of guys that can play both ways, then I can have a lot more transition, more lines than offense and defense,” noted Tavares.
“If I had seven, eight guys like Ian MacKay, then I could literally have three or four of them play defense and run up and play offense, and they just stay. That speeds up the game instead of coming to the bench all the time.”
It’s all about filling that open space on the wall. And now, the challenge begins.
BROADCAST TEAM CHANGING OF THE ARMS
There will be a change of arms in broadcast personnel this year. After 19 seasons standing at my side in the broadcast booth, Randy Mearns has stepped away from his role as color analyst to concentrate on his head coaching duties at St. Bonaventure and as a committee member of NCAA men’s lacrosse.
Over the seasons, Randy patiently taught me the nuances of the box game, allowing me to ride on his coattails during the play-by-play of the broadcasts.
To this day, I don’t profess to know all of this exciting game’s quirks, systems, and critical details. I always relied on “Mernzi” to complete the coloring with his enthusiastic description of goals, plays, and “What the hell happened?” moments.
We developed a deep friendship on and off the turf, one that I cherish. You could sense that on our broadcast. I will miss Randy dearly and will forever be grateful.
Steve Bermel, who has filled in as color analyst over the years, will take Randy’s place. Steve is knowledgeable, follows the game precisely, and translates eloquently to the viewer and listener.
He is very enthusiastic in his own style and incredibly funny. We have developed a good friendship, too, which is so vital in broadcast roles like this. Many of you already know this and enjoy Steve’s commentary.
Rounding out the Bandits broadcast crew is longtime veteran Dave Buchanan. He is, without question, the best side-line reporter in the NLL – and a good color analyst.
From evaluating each page of the rulebook to asking players and coaches pertinent questions, Dave does a fantastic job delivering what the viewer/listener needs to know.
TESTING, ONE, TWO
More exciting news on our coverage of Bandits lacrosse. The CW23 WNLO-TV in Buffalo will carry the television the feed of 14 games, home and away, starting with the FireWolves coverage this Saturday night, beginning at 7 p.m.
Our TV broadcast team (Bermel, Buchanan, and I) will be on the home games, while the Bandits away TV games will be covered by their home-assigned broadcast team (just like in the past with ESPN+ and TSN+).
And the tradition continues with our radio coverage on the 50,000-watt 1520 The Bet. If you want to listen online, click this link: https://www.audacy.com/thebetbuffalo.
Please note: There is a five-to-seven-second delay in the audio delivery, so turning the TV sound down and listening to the radio creates a spoiler alert.
Our half-hour pregame show will air before both home and away games. This week, the pregame show on the radio starts at 6:30 p.m. from the MVP Arena in Albany. I will chat with FireWolves head coach Glenn Clark and new captain Colton Watkinson. From the Bandits, Dhane Smith and Steve Priolo will join me.