Excitement was in the air this morning in HSBC Arena, as the 2010 edition of the National Lacrosse League Buffalo Bandits, augmented by more than a few hopefuls hoping to land a spot on the roster, took to the field for one of their first practices of the season.
Open to the public, about 1000 fans clad in black and orange descended on to the arena, hoping to snag an autograph, maybe buy a souvenir and have some food, and watch their favorite Bandits players go through team exercises and drills. “It’s great,” said Buffalo native and newest Bandit Frank Resetarits, who played last season for the San Jose Stealth. “This is more people than we got at some of our games back in San Jose. This is such a great lacrosse town.”
The team was all abuzz because less than 24 hours earlier, the Bandits inked their superstar Mark Steenhuis to a new contract, a deal that will keep him in Buffalo for the next five years. Long term contracts are a rarity in the NLL, and the Bandits had to deal with the loss of some players in the offseason to free agency, including Cory Bomberry. So locking up Steenhuis and building the team around him could be considered a real coup.
Steenhuis seemed very pleased that he would be staying in Buffalo for the foreseeable future. “It’s a good feeling for me and my family, being close to home. There was no real interest in going anywhere else. I’m happy that I can help the organization out for the next five years. As far as this city and this league, it is definitely far and above many.”
For Steenhuis and many of his teammates, the sting of last year’s season ending playoff loss still can be felt, a game where the Bandits only tallied three goals at New Jersey. “It still eats at me real much,” said Steenhuis. “We’re all real big competitiors and when you have a loss like that at the end of a season you think about it all year.” Head Coach Darris Kilgour added, “We lost to that team three times last year, no way that happens again.” The New Jersey franchise relocated to Orlando during the offseason, and Kilgour said he has that date circled on his calendar this year. “And not because of the weather” Kilgour quipped.
Kilgour said that the team is looking at some new players. “I’m really impressed with Chris Corbeil and Steve Priolo,” said Kilgour. “The come in with a great attitude they’re young kids exactly what I want and they bring good energy.” Kilgour also announced that defensive specialist Chris White would assume the captaincy of the team in the wake of departed former captain (and Darris’ brother) Rich Kilgour. “Chris has been captain-in-waiting for four years. He’s such a steadying influence in the locker room. Actually not one ounce of ‘me’ in him it’s all about ‘team’ and that’s what you have to have in a leader.”
The Bandits will open the 2010 season on the road in Rochester on Saturday January 9, before their home opener the following Saturday, January 16 at 7:30 PM at HSBC Arena against the same Rochester Knighthawks.