Like many athletes, East Amherst native Connor Fields grew up playing sports as a way to follow in the footsteps of those he admired. For Fields, his dad and older brother opened his eyes to the world of lacrosse.
His father, a former lacrosse player, and brother, who was three years older (both named Peter), grew his interest in the game because, “whatever they did, I obviously had to do to,” Fields said.
Fields stopped playing baseball after Little League to focus on playing his true loves hockey and lacrosse and it’s paying off. He currently leads the Buffalo Bandits with eight goals through the first two games of the 2021-22 season.
Vibes are high in Rochester! 🙌#LetsGoBandits pic.twitter.com/QUXSHV3hGY
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) December 12, 2021
It wasn’t until his brother started playing indoor lacrosse in Fort Erie, Ontario, that Fields played for the first time. The organization’s president convinced Fields’ parents to let him play since they were already making the trip across the border multiple times a week.
Compared to some of the larger cities across New York, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany have been known for producing top-level talent. The sport has gained popularity in Western New York over the last few decades, largely in part of the Bandits and the franchise’s success.
“They’ve been really good for as far as I can remember, so it definitely draws a lot of interest in the lacrosse,” he said. “Just watching it and then wanting to play yourself.”
Fields remembers going to Bandits games as far back as he can remember. He believes the fun atmosphere that Banditland embraces was what got him hooked.
Early on, he realized that it wasn’t like any other sports game that he ever attended.
“There’s music blasting the entire time, and it’s basically a party atmosphere while you’re watching a game,” he said. “I loved the speed of the game. It was just so much fun to watch.”
Whether it was with his family or with friends, Fields remembers going to games and waking up early the following morning to re-enact what he saw the night before from his favorite players.
One of those players Fields idolized is now his head coach in Buffalo. John Tavares is the NLL’s all-time leader in games played (306), goals (815), assists (934), and points (1,749), and he played all 24 seasons of his NLL career with the Bandits, which includes four championship runs (1992, 1993, 1996, 2008).
“He was just so much fun to watch,” Fields said. “As I got to know the game better, I could see how smart of a player he was, which made me be able to watch the game in a different way. I really enjoyed watching those teams, but seeing him, in particular, was amazing because [Tavares] just dominated every game.”
“It’s an honor that I was Connor‘s favorite lacrosse player growing up. I’m thrilled that Connor is now wearing the orange and black in his hometown of Buffalo playing in front of family and friends." -Head Coach John Tavares
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) December 8, 2021
Even though he doesn’t remember lacrosse being as popular as it is now in Buffalo, Fields was a standout player in Amherst.
At Bishop Timon high school under coach Ed Greenway (who is now at Williamsville East), Fields was a four-year letter winner and was ranked by Inside Lacrosse as the No. 15 prospect in the country. He traveled to Ontario three times a week during the colder months to play box lacrosse.
Fields committed to the University of Albany and had an impressive career with the Great Danes, scoring 199 goals and 364 points in 69 games over his four years. His 2017 seasons ranks fifth in NCAA history, when he racked up 117 points (55+62).
After his senior season at Albany, Fields went pro and was selected third overall by the Charlotte Hounds in the MLL (now PLL) and 10th by the San Diego Seals in the 2018 NLL Draft.
On August 28, 2021, Fields was traded to his hometown Buffalo Bandits for the 13th overall pick and a 2022 second-round pick.
“My whole life, I always remembered wanting to play in front of Banditland as a member of the team, and it is a dream come true,” he said.
With only two games under his belt in the orange and black, Fields has the personal goal to bring a championship back to Buffalo.
“I remember watching their last championship in 2008, and it brings even more publicity to Buffalo in the lacrosse world when you win a championship,” he said.
Fields, along with the rest of this year’s roster doesn’t just have an emphasis on winning another title for Banditland, but also to grow the sport in the area.
“The more you’re winning, the more fans are coming and getting involved,” he said. “I think that’s what is gonna help to grow the game the most. We are reality doing everything in our power to make that happen.”
Tonight's Heavyweight Player of the Game: Connor Fields! #LetsGoBandits pic.twitter.com/jISXXAbs00
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) December 5, 2021
When he’s asked whether or not he’s happy with his decision of choosing lacrosse over other sports like hockey, he calls it “the best decision I’ve ever made. …I loved my time at the University of Albany and now playing professionally is more than what I ever could have imagined.”
Fields feels very confident in where the sports in headed here in Buffalo.
“When I talk to college coaches, they say it’s an up-and-coming area for lacrosse. There are some really good high school teams in the area and colleges like Canisius with great programs,” he said. “Then you add the Bandits into the mix, and there’s great lacrosse to be watched at all different levels. It’s a special time for lacrosse in the area.”
One of the most special nights of the year. 🧡💚
Check out the special ticket offer with a portion of the proceeds benefitting pediatric cancer care: https://t.co/7tJ370eZiH pic.twitter.com/xx5ZdDFhep
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) December 21, 2021