Blogs | 2/4/2014 3:31:18 PM | John Gurtler
This is quite a ride the Bandits are on as of late. With five straight victories, the rest of the NLL loop is obviously starting to take notice.
But, as Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley told me in his coaches corner segment of Saturday night’s pre-game radio show, “It’s only early February and we have a long way to go.”
Don’t get me wrong. I know Cordingley is happy with the way the team has bought into the system. But he knows this team can play even better and it will be his mission to see that they will. Just watch him on the bench during a game and you’ll know.
It was indeed another good game on Saturday with the Bandits’ 12-10 victory over Toronto. Through all of the chippy play and penalties called, the team matched the Rock’s three-goal run in the second half to make yet another victory lap on the First Niagara Center turf.
Twelve Bandits players figured in the scoring, lead by Mark Steenhuis’ four goals and two assists. The defense was again bruising and Anthony Cosmo was stellar.
Even the video production crew from Los Angeles doing a “24/7”-style feature on John Tavares was impressive. They even came out on the turf for the opening faceoff, went right up to the circle at center, did a sweep around and then ran back to their perch between the benches.
They had steady-cams everywhere, even at the end of the game when there was some pushing and shoving out on the turf. Maybe it was best they retreated from the standing scrum upon the wishes of the on-field officials.
I am told by Bandits public relations manager, Dan Peters, the Tavares feature is an AT&T production and will air in mid-March in the Los Angeles area. Watch for a link to the video at Bandits.com in the coming weeks.
But let’s take a serious turn and focus in on you, the great fans of the Bandits.
Like most of us, until it became public last Thursday, I was unaware of the serious health event that took place recently with Shawn Williams’ eight-year-old son, Tucker. Following surgery on January 24 when a large tumor mass removed from his throat area, Tucker was diagnosed with stage III Burkitt lymphoma.
While the operation was successful, the youngest son of the NLL’s Iron Man will have to endure some massive rounds of chemotherapy in stages. You already know with the incredible work ethic of his father, and the stature of man that he is. But young Tucker is definitely ‘Braver than Brave,’ a term quoted by one of the nurses attending to him.
That simple three-word bravado has quickly swept across the lacrosse and hockey communities in both the United States and Canada. The outpouring of well wishes and concern have been overwhelming in a very positive way, giving Tucker, his dad and family good vibes going forward though all of this.
Probably the most stirring moment came last Saturday night in the First Niagara Center, when you, the fans of the Bandits - proudly known as Banditland – produced an incredible emotional wave by meeting Tucker via FaceTime through an iPad projected on the videoboard.
Following a stirring explanation and introduction by Bandits in-game host, Rich Gaenzler, I witnessed an amazing emotional tide by you the fans in singing “Happy Birthday” to Tucker who was at home in Oshawa with his buddies watching his dad play on TSN.
It was a hair-raise-on-your-arms moment from the vantage point in our broadcast booth. I was moved. And to see Tucker’s face with a smile was confirmation you all had helped him with your good vibes.
Dr. Christopher Siuta, the Bandits’ mental performance coach, witnessed the same moment Saturday night.
I approached him about this social interaction that triggers immediate empathy and the emotional response we all have.
“I was up in the press box and I was able to see pretty much everything unfold in front of me in the entire arena,” said Dr. Siuta, who is also president of SportsMind Counseling.
“And there absolutely was a large percentage of the fans that didn’t know what was happening with Shawn and his family. There was a moment where an entire arena came together when they finally realized what was going on. It’s an emotional reaction you tend to you know will happen with Buffalo fans. It was an emotional response and energy that swept over the arena at that time.”
Still curious, I asked Dr. Siuta what he calls that when a mass of people follow the emotional wave.
“In all individuals, a ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in. You either push on and persevere and battle through, or you escape. In a crisis or problematic time, people tend to fight. As a group, that energy is just contagious. I wasn’t surprised by the fans because it’s normal; it’s a human element that comes to the surface – and the Bandit family rose to the surface. It’s the social Bandit circle.”
And what was Dr. Siuta's reaction towards the Bandits as a team?
“Probably one of the most mentally tough group of players I have ever been associated with. I think in a situation like this takes on a whole new being. I don’t know if you can get a better outpouring of support than that on a team level.”
This is a good family to be a part of. And that includes you in Banditland.
The challenge continues this Saturday with a road game in Rochester, a team just chompin’ at the bit to get back at Buffalo after dropping an 11-10 decision in First Niagara Center on January 25.
WGR’s Dave Buchanan will join me on the broadcast, as Randy Mearns prepares his Canisius Griffs with a pre-season game in Boston. Our coverage from Rochester starts at 7 p.m. with the pre-game show on ESPN 1520 AM. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at the Blue Cross Arena.