Features | 3/30/2012 11:27:58 AM | Chris Ryndak
|Chris White (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
It’s been a long time since Buffalo Bandits captain Chris White has had a season like this one.
As a rookie with the Albany Attack in 2003, he was part of a team that had a good mix of veterans. They were coming off a trip to the championship game the year before, but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. White said that was probably his toughest season in the NLL until this year.
“When you don’t get the wins and that sort of thing, it takes a little bit of a toll on you, White said. “But there’s still a few games left and we can certainly turn this around. If you get into the playoffs in this league, anything can happen.”
The Bandits are currently 4-7 and in last place in the East Division. Even with the losing record, they’re 2.5 games behind first-place Philadelphia and just a game out of second place.
“That’s the one good I thing, I guess is that only one team doesn’t make the playoffs,” White said. “But it would be pretty embarrassing if you are that one team that doesn’t make it.”
This is White’s eighth season in Banditland and the team has not missed the postseason since he was acquired in a trade with San Jose before the 2005 season.
He’s accumulated five assists, 35 loose balls and 18 penalty minutes so far this season and was named an All-Star for the fourth time in his career.
White has seen a lot of good times in his time in Buffalo, including two trips to the NLL Championship game. He was part of a team that won the league title in 2008.
In a league where players tend to bounce around, he’s been able to remain in Buffalo for the majority of his career.
“Once I got traded to Buffalo and played my first season there, I knew it was a place I didn’t want to leave,” he said. “I think if you come to work every day and work hard and show the team you’re playing for the commitment that you have towards them and the respect you have towards them, I think they treat you pretty well.”
In 2009, White was bestowed the honor of being named the team’s captain, succeeding Rich Kilgour. Rich now serves on his brother Darris’ coaching staff as an assistant with the Bandits. Rich played 18 years in the NLL, all for the Bandits and served as captain for 12 seasons.
“You never knew when Richie was going to retire. He seems to have the legs like [21-year veteran and teammate John Tavares] almost, not quite as good,” White joked. “But it was a great honor talking to Darris and playing under Darris and now Richie. You can tell they wear that Bandits logo on their sleeve and on their hearts, that’s for sure. So seeing it through their eyes and taking after those guys, it’s certainly an honor and some tough shoes to follow.”
White primarily played hockey in college but never gave up playing lacrosse. However, he didn’t really know he would be able to make in lacrosse professionally until he made it out of his first training camp with the now-defunct Attack. Albany drafted White in the second round (20th overall) in 2001 and he made his NLL debut in 2003.
“I didn’t talk to too many GMs. There was one in particular and it wasn’t even Albany. I talked to him and it kind of opened my eyes a little bit to see that there was a possibility,” he remembered. “I guess once I got into my first training camp, the doors really opened and I go into the lineup due to a few injuries and paved the way through there.”
Buffalo battled through a franchise-record six-game losing streak this season that it finally snapped two weekends ago with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Minnesota. It appeared as if the Bandits were back on the right path, but faltered in an 11-goal loss to Calgary. The Bandits host Toronto on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center.
“You see that every week in this league that the parity in the league is so close that you have to give your 120 percent each game effort-wise and be smart,” White explained. “If you don’t do that, you’re going to be on the losing end. I think we kind of fell back into that.
“We started to somewhat feel good about ourselves after those two big wins and I guess maybe we took it for granted a little bit and forgot the hard work that was put into those two games to get the wins.”
In his role as captain, White has taken it upon himself to keep players in the dressing room accountable and to also keep them positive.
“I can’t let the team fall into those bad habits of feeling comfortable because really, we haven’t accomplished anything and we didn’t accomplish anything with those two wins last weekend,” he said. “We just got ourselves back on track a little bit and we seemed to let it slip away this past weekend against Calgary.”
The defense has taken a lot of heat this season from the coaching staff and White takes that as a challenge. He said the team’s goal is to always hold the opponent to under 10 goals but so far this year, they’ve only been able to accomplish that feat once. They’ve held the opponent to 10 goals exactly on two separate occasions.
“I know we haven’t done that too often this year and it’s nothing on our goalies. We have two All-Star goalies behind us [in Mike Thompson and Anthony Cosmo],” White said. “As a defense, we have to put the offense in uncomfortable spots. I think playing defense is a pride thing. If you work hard, put your nose to the ground, it’s a lot of hard work back there, but it certainly pays off. When you do hold a team to under 10 goals, you should win every night.”
Despite the struggles the team has had of late, White made it clear that there’s only one place he wants to play lacrosse.
“Playing in Buffalo in front of the fans day in and day out is amazing,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else to tell you the truth. I think the shoes would be hung up if I ever got traded or dealt somewhere else.”