By Budd Bailey
NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
John Tavares was in a class by himself during his playing career with the Buffalo Bandits. He’s continuing that trend now that he’s retired from indoor lacrosse.
The Buffalo Bandit legend was named to the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame on Thursday. What’s more, he was named on the ballot of every voter.
“It’s an honor to be inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame,” he said. “It feels great to be included in my first year of eligibility, but to get 100 percent of the vote is extra-special.”
Tavares was joined in the Class of 2016 with a couple of outstanding veterans of the league. Tracey Kelusky was a teammate of Tavares for three seasons, while Josh Sanderson played for almost two decades.
“It’s great to go in with Tracey,” Tavares said. “He played in Buffalo, and he was a competitor in Calgary and Columbus.
“It’s also great for Josh. I respect them both so much - their style of play, the way they carry themselves on the floor. They were leaders. I’m thrilled to go in with two great guys.”
It’s been quite a year for honors for Tavares, who is now an assistant coach with the Bandits. Earlier in 2016, he had his uniform number retired by the Bandits before a game. Tavares said it’s difficult to compare the two honors.
“The jersey retirement was special because it came within my own organization. That was a night I will remember forever,” he said. “That one was one where I celebrated with my fans, my family, and my friends. I got to share it with 18,000. With the Hall of Fame, Tracey and Josh are also involved, but it’s still the biggest honor the league gives out.”
The three players will be formally inducted on Sept. 27 at the Toronto Rock Athletic Center in Oakville, Ont.
Tavares spent 24 seasons in the NLL (all with the Bandits), a league record. He retired holding most of the NLL’s major records, including games (306), goals, (815), assists (934) and points (1,749). He was the league’s most valuable player three times, and won four championships.
Sanderson was picked by 77 percent of the voters, while Kelusky was chosen by 71 percent. Kelusky’s number is below the 75 percent needed for automatic induction, but he did receive more than 75 percent of the votes from Hall of Fame members and thus qualified for induction.
Kelusky spent three seasons with the Bandits. Before that he played in Columbus, Calgary, Montreal and Philadelphia. Kelusky is a five-time All-Pro and retired with 383 goals and 823 points. His time in Buffalo was hampered by issues with concussions. Sanderson played 19 seasons in the NLL and won two championships. He finished with 1,357 points, and is a nine-time All-Pro.
Kevin Finneran and Gavin Prout were the other two finalists.
The list of people to be part of the NLL’s Hall with Buffalo connections also includes Les Bartley, Johnny Mouradian, Darris Kilgour, Rich Kilgour, Steve Dietrich, Pat O’Toole and Buffalo News sportswriter Tom Borrelli.