It’s been almost six months since the Buffalo Bandits were together in one place. Many of them spent that time anxiously waiting for Saturday to arrive.
That's when the Bandits gathered in the KeyBank Center for the start of training camp. They went through physical examinations on Saturday morning, and then had their first workout in the afternoon.
Buffalo is coming off its best season in eight years, and it ended with a loss to Saskatchewan in the National Lacrosse League finals. The difference in the two teams was a small one, but it kept the team from collecting its first title since 2008.
“We can be proud of the achievement of getting there and winning the East, but that’s not why we do this,” coach Troy Cordingley said. “The way it ended in Game Two” of the Finals, “we had an opportunity to win. It’s been a long wait, but we’re starting from Ground Zero again.”
General manager Steve Dietrich almost had an amazing year. Besides the Bandits’ close call, he directed Six Nations to a Canadian national championship in summer play.
“Winning here last year would have been nice,” Dietrich said. “We’re excited. Complacency is the next step to failure, and we start over like everyone else.”
Saturday was the Bandits’ first look at some of the new faces that joined the roster in the offseason. Buffalo traded for Brad Self, the NLL Transition Player of the Year last season, signed such free agents as Dean Hill and Jon Sullivan, and drafted such players as Justin Martin.
A couple of roster spots opened up when Jay Thorimbert and Chad Culp signed as free agents with New England. Cordingley wants to take a look at everyone in the next few weeks.
“When you starting a season, you want the best players,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they played last year or not. It’s competition. Our job as the coaching staff is to put the best team on the floor.”
Dietrich added, “We all sat around the room after we lost to Saskatchewan, and said we needed to be better on the left side. We need to be more athletic. We have nine or 10 lefts vying for three or four spots. I like our right side, and I like our defense. That said, I think we have 15 or 16 guys fighting for 10 or 11 spots. Most of the guys who are trying to earn spots out the back door have played in the league.”
Dietrich added that the entire roster is signed for the upcoming season, and everyone reported healthy. Billy Dee Smith and Mark Steenhuis missed Saturday’s session for a personal reason.
“The guys are jacked up,” the general manager said. “I think last year put the burr in everyone’s saddle to be ready. It’s going to be a competitive camp.”
The Bandits open their season on Friday, Dec. 30 at home against Colorado.