The Buffalo Bandits had something of a family reunion Saturday night.
It was Champions Night at First Niagara Center. The Bandits invited back the players from their championship teams in 1992, 1993, 1996 and 2008 to take a bow before the game, and then participate in an alumni game at halftime.
Those teams have a small reunion every time the coaching staff gets together. Assistant coaches John Tavares and Rich Kilgour played on all four title teams, while head coach Troy Cordingley won two rings as a player and was an assistant coach on the 2008 team.
Cordingley was happy to see the “old-timers” in the building Saturday.
“I’ve seen a couple of them hanging around,” he said. “They were here early, watching our shootaround, which is great. It’s a good thing for our players to get to see them come back.
“When I played in the early ’90s, we weren’t making a heck of a lot of money. We were the pioneers who allowed guys to make $30,000, $40,000 now. We got $125 a game. I remember, I made more money than that scalping my tickets. It’s a respect thing. We want to show them what we created.”
It’s unusual for more than a handful of players from past teams to be at the same place at the same time.
“Once in a while, you run into a guy here and there,” Kilgour said Saturday morning. “That was a fun part of my life. With those guys, you win a championship, and you’re connected forever.”
All of the championships are nice, but Kilgour almost had it too easy when his teams won three in five years at the start of his career. That made the last one a little bit sweeter. What’s more, he was the captain of the 2008 team.
“Being the first one to touch the Cup is a pretty sweet thing to happen,” Kilgour said. “Darris” Kilgour, Rich’s brother, “was the coach then, and me and Johnny were the ones who got to play that long. Darris was the one who turned the thing around after all those years.
“They all are special, but if I had to rank them, ’08 was No. 1.”
The Buffalo coaches were busy at halftime, so they couldn’t take part in the alumni game.
“I’m sure John would rather sneak out and play with Dhane” Smith “and the other guys,” Kilgour laughed. “He could probably do it. He’s still in shape. Me, my pants are a little tighter than they were. Troy doesn’t have to worry about me playing any minutes.”
The New England Black Wolves had the worst record in the league last season at 4-14. This year, they have gone from worst to first in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division. Even with Saturday’s loss to the Bandits, New England is still tied for first with Buffalo.
The Black Wolves made a huge trade in the offseason, when they acquired Shawn Evans from Calgary. Evans was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2015, but he wanted to play in the East.
“He’s a league MVP for a reason,” Cordingley said. “He’s awfully good. He’s very intelligent. You can never stop those guys, you can only slow them down somewhat. They also added Kevin Crowley, who is not bad himself. They have a deep team.”
The Bandits did a good job on Evans and Crowley, especially in the first 50 minutes of play. But after a late New England run, Evans finished with a goal and five assists, while Crowley had two goals and three assists.
Kyle Buchanan added a hat trick for New England, who had problems on special teams. The Black Wolves went 0 for 5 on the power play and gave up two short-handed goals.