Robert "Buff" McCready will be remembered for his honesty, his grit and for the unconventional style that made him one of the most successful goaltenders in the history of Canadian box lacrosse.
The first head coach of the Buffalo Bandits died peacefully at his St. Catharines, Ont. home Friday. He was 67.
"He was just a very honest guy, never held back any punches and always told you exactly what he felt," said Bandits head coach and General Manager Darris Kilgour, who was a player under McCready in 1992, when the Bandits entered what was then known as the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.
"I saw him coach [ex-Bandits player and head coach] Ted Sawicki in summer-league games in Canada, when Teddy was playing goal and would come right up the floor and score goals," Kilgour said. "Buff always allowed his goaltenders that freedom, to come out of the net and even get involved in the power play. Not many other guys did. I also remember reading clippings about Buff, how he led his team in points one year, and how he'd score a Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight or two -- all in one game."
McCready, who last season served under Kilgour as goaltenders coach and scout for the Bandits, was the father of current Buffalo All-Star midfielder Pat McCready, who ranks third in the National Lacrosse League in career loose balls.
In his final interview with The Buffalo News in March, Buff McCready beamed when asked how he felt when his 32-year-old son had been selected to play in the NLL All-Star Game for the first time in his 11-year pro career.
"Some people don't look at that [loose balls], they only see scoring," said Buff McCready, who is survived by Susan, his wife of 45 years, and four other children. "But he's great on the defensive end, plays steady in that end. I'm really proud of him."
McCready boasts impressive statistics himself: in 347 career games he totaled 14 goals, 484 assists and 498 points, to go along with 492 penalty minutes, though records from that era are sketchy. He was the most valuable player of the 1971 Mann Cup playoffs, when he led the Brantford Warriors to Canada's senior lacrosse championship. He also spent time in the original National Lacrosse League, with the Toronto Tomahawks in 1974 and Maryland Arrows in 1975.
"In addition to being knowledgeable about the game of lacrosse, Buff was also a genuine and caring individual," said Bandits director of lacrosse operations, Dave Zygaj. "He will be missed by our players, as well as the lacrosse community."
McCready coached the first three games in Bandits history, then was reassigned as an assistant under Les Bartley, who died from colon cancer in St. Catharines at the age of 51 on May 15, 2005.
Bartley and McCready's staff helped the Bandits captured their final eight games -- the start of a league-record, 22-game winning streak -- and the MILL championship that season.
McCready left the Buffalo organization the following year before resurfacing as an assistant with the Rochester Knighthawks, with whom Pat spent five seasons as a player until 2001.
Buff McCready, who had retired from General Motors after 30 years of service, spent seven seasons in the MILL/NLL and was coaching with the Ontario Lacrosse Association's St. Catharines Junior Athletics at the time of his death.
"He hadn't been feeling too well, that's one of the reasons Patty got him back involved with the Bandits last year," Kilgour said. "He played and coached the game the way it needed to be played and coached, with such intensity and passion. He was attitude and team first, and Patty has a lot of his father in him that way. A lot of his father has rubbed off."
The McCready family will receive visitors from 7 to 9 tonight, and from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the George Darte Funeral Chapel, 585 Carlton Street, St. Catharines. A service to celebrate his life will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the funeral home chapel, with cremation to follow the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to Hospice Niagara or the Old Boys Lacrosse Association. Condolences can also be registered on-line at www.dartefuneral-home.com.