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Self's sports odyssey brings him to Buffalo with the Bandits

Just when Brad Self thought he had found a home, he had to move.

The National Lacrosse League veteran played the last five years with the Rochester Knighthawks, ending a somewhat nomadic journey through the sport. Then came the surprising trade to Buffalo last September.

"Let's just say I'm happy to be here," Self said. "I enjoyed my five years there. I have some great memories there. It was a little bit of a shock, but we signed up for this. I'm happy to be in Buffalo."

The transition player and the rest of his relatively new teammates will play their first road game of the season on Saturday night, against the New England Black Wolves in Connecticut (7 p.m., Radio 550 AM)

Self began his sports career in both lacrosse and hockey. He played junior hockey with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, and was an eighth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 1999.

"It's crazy to think it's been this long," Self said about the wait to play home games in Buffalo, albeit in another sport. "It's nice to finally end up here."

After finishing junior hockey in 2002, Self moved on to divide his time between four years of college hockey in Canada and the NLL. He started in Ottawa, passed through Colorado, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Derek Suddons of the Bandits puts pressure on Brad Self of Rochester during the 2014 playoffs. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Then Self began to play pro hockey in Europe in 2006, and he stayed through 2011. Self was a center, and sat out a couple of years of lacrosse to spend the entire winter in Germany. But it was back to lacrosse full-time in 2012 - just in time to win three straight championships with the Knighthawks. The run ended with the 2014 title, and the Knighthawks missed the playoffs last year.

"It was a lot of things," Self said about what caused the drop in play. "It's pro sports. A couple of things go wrong, and it snowballs. We had some injuries. Things happened internally that hadn't happened in the past. It's a great organization, and I'm sure they'll be back."

The 35-year-old had an eventful week in September. He was traded to the Bandits for a second-round draft pick on a Monday, and then won the award as the NLL's top transition player on a Tuesday. Self had the chance to learn a little about his new team from brother Scott, who spent most of three seasons with the Bandits.

"He enjoyed his time here in Buffalo," Self said. "He had nice things to say. He gave me a head's-up, but I know a lot of the guys here."

If Brad Self had to go anywhere, Buffalo was a good spot. He was already living in Lewiston, so he'll have a shorter drive to work for home games this way.

He's also switched sides on a relatively good-sized rivalry. Self reports no problems with fitting in with his new team.

The Bandits Brad Self collides with Vancouver's Justin Salt during the Jan. 21 meeting between the teams. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

"The guys have been good, accepting me in the dressing room," he said. "I've played with some of these guys in the summer time and with Team Canada, so that's certainly helped."

On the floor, Self says he's been concentrating on learning the tendencies of his teammates. Learning their voices is part of that process. Through three games, Self is coming along well.

"He is still getting used to our systems defensively, but his transition play has been a good point," Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. "He's scored in every game. His leadership is good. He knows how to win. We rely on him for that. He's been a good teammate."

Self and the rest of the Bandits burst out offensively last week against Vancouver with 21 goals. Self finished with a goal and four assists, displaying an instinct on when to attack the other team.

"He's very good at that," Cordingley said. "That's experience. That's what we needed out of him, and why we went out and got him. He has smarts carrying the ball."

If the Bandits were desperate last week against the Stealth after two bad losses, the Black Wolves will be even more eager to win this week. New England has lost its first three games. Dropping the home opener Saturday night would be a surprisingly bad start for a team that reached the division finals in the playoffs last year.

Buffalo has its own problems, with a 1-2 record and star forward Dhane Smith nursing a bad ankle.

"You can't take anyone lightly," Self said. "Everyone is good, so you can't take a night off, a shift off. We need to realize that."

email: bbailey@buffnews.com

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