Features | 1/21/2011 2:02:07 PM | Michael Jafari
Tracey Kelusky hasn’t been with the Buffalo Bandits long, but he certainly has a long track record of success in the National Lacrosse League. Kelusky leads the Bandits with eight points in two games, which is what the Bandits were hoping for when they acquired him in the offseason.
Kelusky was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario. Like most Canadians, he grew up playing hockey, and he wasn’t introduced to the sport of lacrosse until he was 11-years old.
“John Grant, Sr., who is one of the legends of the game, worked with my father at Coca Cola, and he was the first to introduce me to the game,” recalled Kelusky. “I thought it was a great complimentary sport to hockey, which was my passion at the time, but I started to fall more in love with lacrosse every year I played. I have been very fortunate with the way things turned out.”
Kelusky’s new found passion for the sport as a youngster turned him into an elite prospect. When he completed high school, he had a chance to turn pro early as he was selected by the Bandits in the fourth round of the 1996 Draft. However, Kelusky elected to accept a scholarship to go to college instead. He attended the University of Hartford where he played Division I lacrosse while earning a degree in elementary education. In 2000, he left his mark in the NCAA record books by scoring 59 goals in just 14 games.
“Playing Division I lacrosse was a phenomenal experience for me even though it wasn’t the same type of lacrosse that I was accustomed to playing. It was enjoyable to play at that elite level,” said Kelusky.
After he graduated, Kelusky entered the NLL for the 2001 season. He was drafted first overall by the Columbus Landsharks, an expansion team. Kelusky lived up to the hype by scoring 24 goals and 51 points in just 14 games and earned the 2001 NLL Rookie of the Year Award.
“When I first stepped on the floor for the Columbus Landsharks, it was overwhelming because it was something I dreamed about for a long time. We were a young team and had a shaky year, but at the same time it was exciting to finally be playing in the NLL,” said Kelusky.
Kelusky joined the Montreal Express the following year, but it was another one-year stint for him as the franchise folded after the season. The Peterborough native found himself in the dispersal draft, where he was once again selected first overall, this time by the Calgary Roughnecks.
“At the time, I didn’t want to relocate out west since I was an Ontario guy, but even with the difficult transition I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.” Kelusky said of heading out to Calgary.
During his eight-year tenure with the Roughnecks, Kelusky served as team captain and led his team to NLL championships in 2004 and 2009. In addition, he collected 539 points and was named MVP of the 2005 All-Star Game in front of his home crowd in Calgary.
Buffalo acquired Kelusky and a third round draft choice in exchange for a first round pick in the 2011 Draft back on October 6, finally making him a Bandit 14 years after drafting him. Kelusky was already familiar with the core of the Bandits roster, as he played with Kyle Clancy, Mike Thompson, Scott Self, Mark Steenhuis and John Tavares in the Major Series Lacrosse tournament over the summer. Kelusky is excited to be a part of the Bandits’ 20th season, and he thinks the team’s anniversary is a major accomplishment for the city of Buffalo and the NLL.
“It’s a huge milestone for the league. During my eight years with Calgary, we knew what the Bandits were doing, which was drawing good crowds and always helping out in the community. The Sabres’ ownership has been very instrumental in the success and the growth of the league. It’s an honor to play with the Buffalo Bandits.”
Kelusky made his Bandits debut on January 8 in the 2011 season opener as he returned to Calgary to face his former team and was honored by the Roughnecks before the game. He was presented with a white cowboy hat to recognize all of his contributions during his time with the organization.
“Those were phenomenal years. You measure success in championships, and when I’m done playing I’ll remember that. Now my focus is to help the Buffalo Bandits win a championship and contribute in any way I can,” Kelusky said.
When Kelusky isn’t suiting up for the black and orange, he still dedicates his time to expanding the sport of lacrosse. Before moving back east, Kelusky served as a coach/teacher at the National Sports Academy in Calgary. Now that he has come back home, he has started a business called Evolve Elite Lacrosse with his good friend and fellow NLL star, John Grant, Jr. The company prepares kids to play in the NCAA or at a prep school.
“It is an exciting venture for us, and I have been pretty fortunate that lacrosse has been a full time thing for me. I’ve been able to play for 11 seasons and give back by creating a business involving lacrosse, which is pretty rewarding for me.”
To learn more about Evolve Elite Lacrosse, you can visit their website here.