Kevin Buchanan's first trip to Buffalo for an indoor lacrosse game was an eye-opening experience.
The forward came here as a member of the Minnesota Swarm in 2009. He saw the big, enthusiastic crowd and needed little time to come to a conclusion.
"Buffalo was the place you dream about playing indoor lacrosse," he said. "Everything about it was awesome. It was a different experience that any other city."
As a member of the Bandits in 2012, Buchanan will see those dreams come to life at least eight times this season. His second chance of this season will happen tonight, when the Bandits play the Philadelphia Wings in the First Niagara Center (7:30 p.m., Radio 1520 AM).
Buchanan's journey to Buffalo started when he was growing up in suburban Baltimore, a lacrosse hotbed. He was good enough to earn a college scholarship to Ohio State, where he first learned about the indoor game from his teammates.
"We had a number of Canadians on the team," Buchanan said. "One of my close friends and linemate was Joel Dalgarno. He was from British Columbia, and he talked about playing the game. He brought me up to date on the game, the NLL [National Lacrosse league]. I watched clips of games on the Internet."
The Swarm took Buchanan with its first pick in the 2008 draft (11th overall). He joined the team in 2009; it took a little time for opportunity to knock.
"I kind of got my chance when a guy missed a flight into Philly," the 25-year-old said. "They had to play me, and I did OK. The next weekend, we were in Toronto and they gave me another shot. When we played in Buffalo, I put up some good numbers."
When the season was over, Buchanan had put up 45 points in 11 games and made the NLL All-Rookie team. He took 2010 off from lacrosse because he was working in California, but then was traded by Minnesota to Boston for Mat Giles -- who now is Buchanan's teammate with the Bandits. Buchanan rearranged his life and joined the Blazers for the 2011 season.
Boston had one of the most dynamic offenses in the league last season. Buchanan played a supporting role for such players as Dan Dawson, Casey Powell and Josh Sanderson.
"Talk about an experience -- the talent level was off the chart there," Buchanan said. "They were three of the best players in the league. All of the other goalies must have been seeing stars after playing us. I learned a ton with them."
Buchanan contributed as well. His biggest game came in Buffalo on April 16, when he had five goals and four assists in a win. Buchanan landed a job selling medical technology in the Boston area, and he played outdoor lacrosse with the Boston Cannons, the 2011 champions of outdoor's Major Lacrosse League. Life was good.
Then in the fall, he turned on his computer and
"I received an email from the [Blazers'] general manager, explaining why Boston was suspending operations," Buchanan said. "I heard rumblings, but you never know what's going on. It was a shock. Training camp was starting in a few months, and we were in process of being dispersed."
Buchanan might have been forced to give up the indoor game had he been taken by a Western team; the logistics would have been difficult. But the Bandits had the sixth pick and grabbed Buchanan.
"He was a guy who was on our radar," Bandits coach and general manager Darris Kilgour said. "We would have looked at him even with a higher pick. It's tough to judge a player only on how he plays against you, but he ripped us every time he played us. We knew he had potential. He's a very athletic player, which we didn't have on the offensive side."
Buchanan has been a good fit in Buffalo, as he's fourth on the team in scoring with two goals and three assists for five points. A busy weekend starts tonight with the game against the Wings, which will give Buchanan the chance to see some familiar faces.
"Philly is heavy on Americans. I've played against many of them," he said. "It's going to be good to see Dan [Dawson, who went to the Wings in the dispersal draft]."
Then on Saturday it's on to Minnesota for a game with the Swarm.
"I enjoyed my time out there," Buchanan said. "It will be great to go back to play in that arena again.
"This is a big weekend for the team. If we go 0 for the weekend after winning our first two, it will undo what what we've done so far. If we can go 4-0, that would be a great start."