Lacrosse Editorial – Bandits Finally Get The Monkey Off Their Backs

Gary Groob Columnist and Co-Host of NLL Lacrosse Talk on Spanglish Sports World and Spanglish World Networks.

This past weekend the Buffalo Bandits were able to achieve something that has eluded them for fifteen long years, become champions of the National Lacrosse League (NLL).

Although Buffalo has been in three of the previous four NLL finals, they had come away empty, leaving them with no titles since 2008.  This year was different.  Facing adversity all year, with major injuries to major pieces of their lineup, this team still found ways to win.  The Bandits finished the regular season with a 14-4 record, good for first place overall in the league. 

The team became healthy in the last few games, and went into the playoffs more confident, yet completely business-like.  In years past they had been called over confident and cocky, but this year’s group was different.

Dhane Smith on growing with the Bandits:

“I feel like 2016 I was a little kid – I didn’t understand it,” Smith said. “I was grateful that we got there, but I didn’t really get it. In 2019, we fell short. Each time we got a little better. Last year we got a win under our belt. This year, we won the championship. Things have a funny way of working, and I’m so thankful. I’d love to have four championships, but this one means the world to me.”

This year’s final was a rematch against the Colorado Mammoth, who beat Buffalo in a three game upset last year, and were looking to repeat.

“Give them a lot of credit, I don’t want to take anything from them. I thought they played a great game. They came out like their lives depended on it, and I don’t think we matched their energy. It’s disappointing.”

Colorado Head Coach Pat Coyle

Buffalo’s Playoffs:

Buffalo had ripped through their opponents in the previous playoff series’, beating Rochester 20-8, and Toronto 14-5 & 17-8 in a best two out of three elimination.  Colorado was their next test.

The series split with Buffalo taking game one 13-12, but Colorado answering with a 16-10 gem of their own.  Would the script play the same as the previous year with Colorado winning on the Bandits home floor, or would Buffalo finally get satisfaction.   It was obvious early that Buffalo’s intensity and energy eclipsed that of the Mammoth.  Jumping up to an early lead, the Bandits never looked back en route to a 13-4 championship clinching victory.

“The way we finished Game Two (a loss), I don’t think that sat well with anybody, that was the least amount of composure we could have had in Game Two. It shows the character in our locker room, not only on the defensive end but on the offensive end to come out with a performance like that. We did the all the little things right. … I’m the last line of defense, and it’s a pleasure to play behind that group.”

Matt Vinc – Bandits Goalie

Head Coach John Tavares, who has been there for all five Buffalo championships in their history (4 as a player, 1 as a coach) mentioned in the press conference:

“It’s more stressful as a coach than as a player, you feel a lot more responsible for the overall team performance. It’s my latest one, so it’s my best one at the moment.”

The star of the night for Buffalo was Josh Byrne making his return after sitting out game one and two with an injury.

Byrne Talking about not playing in games one and two:

“It was one of the biggest emotional roller-coasters of my entire life,” he said. “Calling (Smith), bawling my eyes out and telling him I can’t play. … I tried to be there any way I can. It was frustrating. I never thought I’d have to sit out a championship game, especially because of an injury. The universe has a funny way of working, and fortunately we got to Game Three.”

In net was a soon to be Hall of Fame goalie, Matt Vinc.  An eight time goalie of the year, and now a four time NLL champion.  When asked about retirement:

“I don’t know if there’s a time to talk about this yet, because it doesn’t involve just me, it’s about our group, and I just want to focus on our group. These guys, our main focus is enjoying the moment.”

Dhane Smith put it all in perspective:

“It’s something you think about when you’re a kid, once I was a professional, my goal was to win a championship. I put so much hard work with these guys into this process. It wasn’t easy. I’ve been in this league for 11 plus years, and I had nothing to show for it…Until tonight.”

Congratulations to the Buffalo Bandits, the 2022-2023 NLL Champions.

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Gary Groob
Gary Groob

Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.

An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.

Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.

In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.

Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).

Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.

Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.