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NLL journeyman Self finds a home with Bandits

When Scott Self put on a Buffalo Bandits uniform last week for the first time in 10 years, it brought back memories -- but not the ones you might expect.

Self, who will join his new teammates tonight when they play the Wings in Philadelphia (7:30 p.m., TWC 13, Radio 1520 AM), was reminded of the time he almost made his professional lacrosse debut in 2001.

"I was a fourth-round draft choice in 1999," the Peterborough, Ont., native said. "I played hockey at the University of Guelph then, but I came to training camp, and eventually I got thrown on a protected list. So I practiced with the team in Grimsby [Ont.].

"One day in 2001 I got back to my place on a Saturday morning after playing hockey, and I saw I had 10 phone messages. They all said, 'We need you to play in Rochester tonight.' "

One Bandits player had been suspended and another was hurt, so the team needed a couple of bodies -- and fast.

"I borrowed a car -- I didn't even own a car then -- and as I pulled into the hotel I saw Sean Holmes, my hockey teammate at Guelph. We both said, 'What are you doing here?' We warmed up for the game, but the Bandits appealed the suspension of one player and the other guy decided he could play."

Self's debut was therefore delayed a week, when the Bandits played in New York.

"It was so different than what I was used to," he said. "My only lacrosse experience was in junior. I had never played against American players. I had no idea what it was going to be like. But it was pretty interesting."

The defender was ready to start his professional career in earnest in 2002, and he's been a regular in the National Lacrosse League ever since. Little did he know at the time that he'd become an expert at putting on different uniforms, as he's been a representative of several parts of the accordion-like league membership over the years.

"I am one of the most well-traveled guys around," Self said with a laugh.

He found regular duty with the New York Saints for a year, and then it was on to Ottawa for a year. In 2004, Self landed in Arizona, and actually stayed there for four seasons and played in two championship games.

"My best years were in Arizona, because I was there for years," he said. "We built up a rapport, and I was comfortable with the system."

Self's last game for Arizona was a title game loss to Rochester in 2007. The Sting folded after that, so Self was off to Chicago. Then after a year, he went to Edmonton. In 2010, Self landed in Minnesota. He's been good no matter where he's played, and has few regrets about how his career has gone.

"It's been great for the most part," the 31-year-old said. "The toughest thing is when you are walking into a new locker room that has a different philosophy. You have to develop chemistry with everyone."

The last move came last August, when Minnesota traded Self and Jay Thorimburt to Buffalo for a pair of draft choices.

"We always knew [Self] was a stellar player. We've seen him for years," Bandits Associate General Manager Derek Graham said. "I got a text during the world outdoor championships that Billy Dee Smith had gone down with a knee injury. When I heard it was an ACL, I thought we'd better find a replacement. He's an excellent defender who gives us room in transition. He's not a replacement for Billy Dee, but he is as close as you can get. He's a great leader, a great guy, and a rock-solid first-team defender."

"I think I was excited to be coming back," Self said about the deal. "I knew a lot of the guys; I was already playing with a lot of them [in summer lacrosse in Peterborough]. I knew I'd be comfortable, and I know Buffalo is a great place to play having played there as a visitor."

Self wasn't happy about losing his second career game as a Bandit, a 10-9 decision in Calgary last week. He hopes to avoid an 0-2 start with a win against a Philadelphia team that has a different look than the squad that missed the playoffs in 2010.

"I played them twice last year without [injured star Athan] Iannucci," Self said. "They picked up Brendan Mundorf and a couple of other offensive players. They gave Boston a tough game last week."

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com

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