LLORD BRINGS A WINNING PEDIGREEFeatures | 3/31/2011 1:03:12 PM | Michael Jafari
The Buffalo Bandits officially clinched a playoff spot when they extended their winning streak to four games on Sunday with a 12-9 victory over the Minnesota Swarm. The Bandits (8-3) have been on a hot streak for nearly a month now, and much of their success can be traced to a defensive unit that features a core group of Chris White, Chris Corbeil, Travis Irving and fifth year veteran Ian Llord.
“I think everybody enjoys playing on the defense, and it’s not just building a wall, because everyone’s always thinking and moving,” said Llord. “Everyone is buying into the system and communicating well back there, but we have a long way to go until we can say we’re doing it well, although I do think we’re on the right track.”
Llord learned his defensive instincts at a very young age while growing up in St. Catherines, Ontario. The Bandits defenseman had the privilege of growing up in a lacrosse family, which helped him develop into the player he is today.
“I was pretty young when I started,” Llord recalled. “My dad signed us up for tee-ball, and I don’t think he found it too exciting to watch, so he switched us over to lacrosse. He used to play when he was younger, and he had a bunch of buddies who played, so that’s how my brother and I got into it.”
Llord can make a strong argument that defense wins championships, as he has been a part of three championship teams on three different levels. His first title came in 2003, when as a rookie, he helped the St. Catherines Athletics win their second Minto Cup in three years in Junior-A Lacrosse.
In 2007, Llord moved on to Major Series Lacrosse, where he was drafted first overall by the Brampton Excelsiors. Once again, Llord helped his team earn the championship as the Excelsiors won the Mann Cup in Llord’s first year with the club. Llord then moved on to the Western Lacrosse Association to play for the Victoria Shamrocks.
"I’m kind of lucky when I get picked up by teams, because they’re always looking for a younger guy to help out at the defensive position, so it’s more about me being in the right place at the right time. I got picked up by St. Catherines, and then I was picked up again by Brampton, so I was lucky enough to win those championships on two solid veteran clubs. It was definitely a learning experience, and I try to pass that on to the younger guys now,” said Llord.
Llord moved on to the pros after his first year of Senior-A Lacrosse. The defenseman was originally drafted by the Bandits in 2005 (42nd overall), but Buffalo was unable to sign him, so he re-entered the draft in 2007. By that time, Llord’s defensive skills earned him tremendous recognition in the league, and he was picked fifth overall by the Philadelphia Wings.
Llord continued to impress in his first pro season, and he even earned rookie of the week honors in the seventh week of the 2007 NLL campaign. Although the Wings failed to qualify for the playoffs, Llord finished his rookie year with two goals, eight points and collected 49 loose balls in 11 games.
“Philly was awesome. I got picked up by the Sanderson brothers, who are well-known throughout the lacrosse world. I had a lot of fun because I went to a veteran team once again, but I think we were a better team than what the ending result showed, so that was a little disappointing,” recalled Llord. “I learned a lot on how to do extra things to stay in the league over there, and I have nothing but great things to say about that organization and the players, too.”
The defenseman’s stay in Philadelphia was short-lived as he was involved a three-way trade in the off-season. He originally was sent to the Calgary Roughnecks, who then flipped him to Buffalo in exchange for two high draft picks. It was a special moment for Llord, because he got to move closer to his family, and he would be working with a coach that he had known for his entire playing career in Darris Kilgour.
“My family is at every game, and my friends get to watch me play, which makes the game a lot more fun for me, especially when I see them after the games. Darris got me back in a trade, and we have known each other for a long time, since he watched me throughout Junior-B. He knew what he was getting himself into when he picked me up,” said Llord.
Llord’s first season as a Buffalo Bandit was a memorable one. Besides reaching career-highs with five goals and 17 points, Llord also helped the Bandits win the NLL Champions Cup in 2008. The Bandits’ victory marked the third championship in three different leagues for Llord, which was quite an accomplishment for the then 22-year-old.
“It was great because it was (Richie Kilgour’s) second-last year. Again, it was being in the right place, but we worked very hard to get to that point. It was my first year in Buffalo that was led by Darris, and for some reason my team wins a championship in the first year that I am there,” recalled Llord. “Hopefully this year we can get back in (the championship) because we have a good team this year, and it kind of reminds me of that same team from 2008.”
The 2008 campaign was a year that Bandit fans may never forget, but Llord has a lot of optimism about this year’s squad. Buffalo is currently in second place in the East division with an 8-3 record, and they are just a half-game back of the first place Toronto Rock (9-3) entering this weekend’s games. The Bandits defenseman says there was a lot to like about the championship team of three years ago, but he also sees similar attributes in the Bandits’ 20th season.
“I think this team is real similar, because we have a quiet leader in ‘Whitey,’ just like we had in Richie, and we have everyone pulling in the same direction. It is a good feeling right now, and I can see all the similarities especially with all the young guys really playing well. I am really hoping we win it this year because it would be great to go back in the winner’s circle,” said Llord.
While Llord’s main focus is helping the Bandits to another championship, the defenseman has a reason to smile after the season. Besides continuing his studies in horticultural technology at Niagara on the Lake College, Llord is awaiting the birth of his first child this summer. In preparation of the big step, he plans on taking a break from playing with the Shamrocks in the Senior League.
“I’ll be staying at home in the east this year, because I am expecting my first child early in the summer. But I played for Victoria in the last two years, and that is a great organization. They treated my brother and I with nothing but class, and I am looking forward to going back there at some point, but I need to take care of my family right now,” an excited Llord said.
Although he is taking a break from the summer leagues, Llord is 100% committed to being a part of the Bandits, and he is proud of it. Every time the Bandits P.A. announcer, Chris Swenson, introduces him as “Ian ‘Oh my’ Llord,” the defenseman gets an exciting jolt, and the fans in Banditland just add to it.
“Swenie is a creative guy, and he has his own stuff. I don’t talk to him about that stuff so I think he came up with that on his own,” joked Llord. “It’s always fun because we play in a very good barn in front of the best fans in the league, so every time I strap on the pads and go out, it’s exciting.”
Llord and the Bandits will come home this weekend to take on the Washington Stealth on Saturday, April 2. Faceoff inside HSBC Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.