Buffalo Bandits: Buffalo’s Diamond in the Rough of Sports Teams

Victoria Wraight, Entertainment editor

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Any sports fan living in Buffalo can probably relay the history of the local football and hockey teams, the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, with ease. Said fan is most likely equipped with a vast knowledge of key players, coaches, games, seasons, and groundbreaking events from the two teams, as well as  myriad vintage or pricey merchandise such as jerseys, signed autographs, and other novelties that may have sparked their interest. They may even be able to mention some well-known facts from Buffalo’s baseball team, the Buffalo Bisons. But what they may not be able to talk in depth about is Buffalo’s overlooked lacrosse team, the Buffalo Bandits.

Founded in 1991, the team is the third-most recent formed in Buffalo ( the other two being FC Buffalo (Soccer, 2009) and the Buffalo Beauts (Women’s Ice Hockey, 2015). They are a part of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) that was founded in 1986.  The NLL contains nine total teams, most of which are located in Canada or near Canada. In fact, there’s also a team located in Rochester, called the Rochester Knighthawks. Despite the team being around for little over 25 years, the team (and the league) hasn’t gotten as much attention as the aforementioned teams. This is most likely due to the fact that some people either aren’t aware of the team, or aren’t interested enough in lacrosse to attend a game. Lacrosse is as high energy a game as football or hockey, and it is very similar to hockey. Bandits games are played at the KeyBank Center, the same place the Sabres play.

 As for the overall energy of the games, avid sports fan and teacher here at the high school, Mr. Senn, said the lacrosse games, as compared to hockey games, are “way more exciting. There are more fights, more goal scoring, and more action. The crowd cheers like they would at a soccer game.” Lacrosse plays similarly to soccer as well, so such a thing is to be expected. According to senior and ex-lacrosse player  Kyra Krasowski, “I feel like Sabres games are more for families. At Bandits games, it’s less little kids and more twenty-year-olds. There’s still kids, but it’s just more adults.” When I asked her opinion on the difficulty of the sport, she replied, “It takes all-around talent in seeing plays, enacting them, corresponding with teammates, and being in motion all while there are opponents trying to stop you.” So the challenge Bandits players face is equal to that of a Sabres player, as the sports are extremely alike in gameplay and training. But the Bandits have more examples of their legacy even when a crowd gathers for a Sabres game.

If you have ever been to the KeyBank Center, the flags below are most likely familiar to you, hanging up above the same way jerseys for the infamous French Connection are. These banners proudly testify to the Bandits’ victories, winning the world championship in 1992, 1993, 1996, and 2008, where the prize is known as the Champion’s Cup. They have also won the division championship in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2008, and just last year in 2016. Compare this to the Buffalo Bills, who have won ten division championships and a couple of conference championships, but have never had the honor of winning the Super Bowl and attaining the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy, and the Buffalo Sabres, who have won conference and division championships, but never the Stanley Cup.

Despite this impressive winning history, the Bandits are often forgotten in Buffalo-themed sports memorabilia. With the arrival of the Pegulas, current owners of the Bandits, Sabres and Bills, the term “One Buffalo” was born, unifying the two most prominent teams in the city-teams that have never won their league’s top prize. While the Bandits are included in the sales of shirts and the like on the website, one is more likely to find Sabres or Bills merchandise first or through a simple Google search of One Buffalo. As seen below, the logo for One Buffalo is composed of Bills and Sabres colors, yet the merchandise for the Bandits is still up to par with what the brand usually produces.

According to Senn, there is a clear reason for this. “There isn’t as big a market for lacrosse. There isn’t as much revenue for the Bandits, and the entities aren’t as big.” Krasowski agrees, saying, “Lacrosse isn’t exactly a nationwide pastime like football, so I understand why it’s less important. One Buffalo is all about things everyone can get into and involved with, but lacrosse isn’t really for everyone I guess.” Bandits tickets tend to be less than Bills or Sabres tickets, with the cheapest running at $117, and the most expensive for $288 for the entire 2017 season. For the Sabres, the lowest amount is $1,217, and the highest is $4,820 (keep in mind, there are more games in a hockey season, though the price per game tended to be higher for the Sabres). As for the Bills, the mere idea of season tickets is accompanied by the high costs, even for the nosebleed seats that all but freeze over in the wintertime. This does have to do with the leagues themselves, as the NFL definitely trumps the NHL and the NLL in terms of popularity, as well as how much money each draws in each season. 

While football and hockey will continue to dominate the sports market, fans and casual observers alike will find a fun, rowdy, high energy game of lacrosse waiting for them at the KeyBank center, courtesy of the Buffalo Bandits. For one night, ditch the blue, red, and white, or the gold and navy blue. Don orange and black instead, and be ready for a team you’ll be coming back for. Buffalo has a bad name with the two top sports teams, but what many don’t realize is that the best team is a team they likely have never heard of.

This is a picture of what a typical Bandits game looks like, the ice replaced for turf and blue and gold for orange and black.

The logo for One Buffalo is composed of Bills and Sabres colors, yet the merchandise for the Bandits is still up to par with what the brand usually produces.

These banners proudly testify to the Bandits’ victories, winning the world championship in 1992, 1993, 1996, and 2008, where the prize is known as the Champion’s Cup

The Buffalo Bandits were world champions in 1992, 1993, 1996, and 2008.

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