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McCready is back on the job

Pat McCready didn't turn out to be the retiring type.

That's why he'll be making his home debut tonight for the Buffalo Bandits when they host the Minnesota Swarm in HSBC Arena (7:30 p.m., Radio 1520 AM, game shown on nll.com), instead of relaxing on his couch with a pipe and slippers.

McCready returned to active duty last week for the Bandits in Toronto after a major injury suffered in the 2008 season forced him to at least consider the possibility of hanging up his lacrosse stick.

"I was involved in a fight and basically tore my shoulder up," he said. "I played the rest of the season with it, but I had to have surgery.

"It's a six-month recovery from the procedure. It was kind of odd having the time off, for the first time in a long time. I kind of got used to it."

McCready lives in St. Catharines, Ont., with his family. He had played 12 years of pro indoor lacrosse, including six in Buffalo. It's not as if he was making so much money at lacrosse that he couldn't afford to leave the game.

As the months went by, retirement seemed like a growing option. He wasn't even listed in the Bandits' 2009 media guide, except for mentions in the record book about his status as ranking second in team history in loose balls and seventh in assists.

"Sure, it [retirement] obviously did enter my mind," he said. "I came pretty close to it a couple of times."

At this stage of the story, some of the other members of Bandits come into the picture. They made it their business to see if they could make the veteran's retirement thoughts disappear.

"The guys from St. Catherines -- [Mark] Steenhuis, [Mike] Accursi, [Sean] Greenhalgh -- they kind of never let you alone," McCready said. "They were always after me, and they made me feel like I was part of the team."

The 34-year-old Bandit worked with a personal trainer and did some weight-lifting as he recovered from shoulder surgery. He also had a training partner.

"Steenhuis goes out and works on his ball skills probably every day. He'd pick me up and take me to the arena [for workouts]," McCready said.

"A lot of the people don't realize the time commitment that it takes for players in this league. Everyone thinks we're weekend athletes, but it takes two to three hours a night to be ready for a game. We also have work and family. There are a lot of things pulling at you."

McCready attended the Bandits game against Rochester last month and kept up with the progress of the team. He said the hardest thing about sitting out is that it didn't feel right to watch. It just made him want to come back all the more.

Finally, two weeks ago last Tuesday, McCready took part in a Bandits' practice in Grimsby, Ont. As one onlooker said that night, "I knew he couldn't stay away."

"As soon as I walked in, we shared some laughs in the dressing room," McCready said. "John Tavares said, 'It's like you haven't missed anything.' A lot of teams preach a family feeling, but we really are a family."

McCready practiced twice and then played in Toronto last week to start his season. In his very first shift of 2009, at 1:29 of the first period, he picked up a penalty for an illegal cross-check.

"That didn't work out the best way it could have," he said with a chuckle.

Later in the game, McCready was involved in a fight with Scott Campbell of the Rock. He reported no problems with his repaired shoulder.

"You always have questions about whether things are going to hold up for you. That was the best thing that could have happened," he said.

The Bandits won McCready's return last week in Toronto. Now it's back to Buffalo tonight where he'll get to hear his name introduced to a roaring crowd in his return "home."

"Buffalo has the best fans in the league. It's an amazing atmosphere," he said. "Some other teams are having attendance problems, but not there."

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com

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