Rich Kilgour's "farewell tour" was a little slow in starting this year, but the veteran member of the Buffalo Bandits says he's ready to complete his 18th and final season of pro lacrosse.
Kilgour will be in the Bandits' lineup again tonight when they play the Wings in Philadelphia (8 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). The defenseman missed the first four games of the season due to an elbow injury but debuted last week against the Rush in Edmonton.
"I had tendinitis in my elbow -- tennis elbow, basically," the 40-year-old original Bandit said. "It comes from years of playing sports. It finally got sore enough where I had to give it some rest. I should be ready to go now for the rest of the season."
It's always tough to jump into a lineup for the first time in a season, particularly when you're a month behind your teammates when it comes to playing games. But Kilgour thought his 2009 debut went fine.
"I could see myself getting a couple of more loose balls next time," he said. "I was involved in one goal they got for sure. The first game always makes you a little nervous. You have to get back to business. But as far as fitting in with the team, I think it went all right."
"Rich played really well," said brother Darris Kilgour, Bandits coach and general manager. "He fell right into our defense, he fit right in. He brings so much experience to games, and he brings calmness to our bench. It was good to have him back."
Rich Kilgour is ready to make a smooth transition to life after playing lacrosse once this season ends. Soon he'll be coaching the game. Kilgour will head up the men's lacrosse program at Niagara County Community College that begins play in 2010.
"I knew my playing days were numbered," he said. "I'm going to say that around the end of September [NCCC Athletic Director] Lee Wallace approached Darris and myself. He told us about the men's program and asked if we knew anyone who might be interested in coaching it. . . . Everything worked out great for me. It was perfect, since they were starting in 2010."
Kilgour has had an eye on coaching at some point in his life almost from the start.
"I've been doing that since I was 10 or 11," he said. "I had some great coaches in high school. Don Miller coached me in high school basketball [at Niagara-Wheatfield]. He always pushed the right buttons. All the coaches over the years, I've always thought about what I liked. I've had many good coaches. Darris has been a great coach, and I've watched how he keeps teams motivated. . . . I've been around a lot of championship teams, knock on wood."
Darris will help his brother at NCCC as an assistant when he can, and Rich said he'd be wise to listen to his suggestions. He's excited about starting a program from Square One.
"The way programs are building in Western New York -- Orchard Park, Amherst, St. Francis -- there are so many high schools playing lacrosse now and so many kids looking for a place to play [after graduation]," Kilgour said. "Some won't end up at a four-year college. At a junior college they can get their grades up and their skills up. They can learn from a guy like myself who has played a lot."
Before worrying about the NCCC program, though, there are more immediate matters at hand -- such as tonight's game in Philadelphia. The 1-3 Wings and 5-0 Bandits have had a long and loud rivalry throughout Kilgour's career. He says it's always a fun game when the teams meet.
"[Philadelphia fans] are definitely just a shade behind Buffalo in enthusiasm. They love their Wings," Kilgour said. "Philadelphia is a rough crowd, and they know their lacrosse. . . . It's fun to play in that environment, to answer the bell when they get 14,000 there. It's such a great rivalry, particularly when they were selling out and Philly and Buffalo were at the top of the league.
"It's like cats and dogs. You don't know who hated who first, but it really doesn't matter now."