READY FOR ACTIONFeatures | 4/20/2012 11:01:51 AM | Chris Ryndak
Tom Montour decided from a young age that he was going to be a professional lacrosse player.
He says his dad often reminds him of the story of when he made his dream known.
“We were at a Toronto Rock game when I was younger,” Montour said. “I must have been about 16, 17 or so and I looked at my dad and I told my dad, ‘I’m going to play in this league one day.’ Two years later, I got drafted by Toronto so it’s pretty crazy.”
Eight seasons later, Montour has established himself as a dependable transition player in the NLL. This season, the 29-year-old Buffalo Bandit has gone through some struggles but has worked through them.
He sat out the first two games as a healthy scratch and has only played in seven games this season heading into Saturday’s home finale against Rochester.
He is perhaps is own toughest critic when it comes to evaluating his season.
“It hasn’t been one of my better seasons. I probably could’ve done a lot better in the games I did play,” Montour said. “I really didn’t expect to sit out as many games as I did. I played most of the games last year and maybe like half this year.”
Montour has two goals and seven assists this season and, despite missing seven games, he is fourth on the team in loose balls with 60. He takes great pride in that aspect of his game.
“I love getting the ball and getting it out of our end and letting our offense get some goals so we can win a game,” he said.
While up in the press box, Montour was able to gain a different perspective of the game, but there’s no question he would rather have been on the field. Montour has dressed in the last three games and believes that he’s getting into a groove as the regular season winds down.
“I feel like I kind of got back into a rhythm,” he explained. “It was hard at first though. Just going to practice and you’re not really getting the game experience. The first game was a little bit [tough], but I feel like I’m getting back into it now.”
Drafted by Toronto in 2003, he made the Rock’s practice squad in 2004 but did not play in his first professional game until 2005. By that time he was a member of the Bandits and appeared in six games that year, including two playoff games.
“It was unreal, actually,” he said of his first career game. “When I first got with Toronto, the crowds were pretty much the same but the Buffalo fans were a lot crazier. It was more exciting.”
After one season in Buffalo, Montour went to Portland where the LumberJax franchise was preparing to begin its first season. He moved to Oregon and worked on getting people interested in lacrosse without much success.
He had a second opportunity to play in a franchise’s inaugural season when he suited up for the Chicago Shamrox in 2007. He played two seasons there and set career highs in goals and assists in 2007.
However, having played in markets like Buffalo and Toronto that had a history of embracing lacrosse, Montour said it was difficult to get people through the gates in these more non-traditional markets.
“With Toronto and Buffalo already being in the league and establishing themselves, it was a little bit difficult [in Portland and Chicago]. I moved to Portland and we had to do promotions and stuff to get people out there and we weren’t getting the crowds. We weren’t getting anywhere near the crowds Buffalo and Toronto would get. ”
Chicago suspended operations before the 2009 season and Portland’s players were dispersed in a league-wide draft later that year.
For Montour, there was some excitement when he heard he’d be headed back to Buffalo in 2009 via trade.
“I was so pumped up,” the Six Nations, Ont. native said. “I was glad to be closer to home. Now my family could watch me play.”
Having a familiarity with his teammates, many of who were still on the Bandits from his first go-around with the team helped to make the adjustment even easier.
“I basically knew their systems still and like I said, I knew a lot of the guys. A lot of the guys were pretty glad to see me back, too,” he explained.
With the league tighter and more offensively talented than ever, Montour says that he’s had to adjust his style of play over the years. Mostly, those adjustments have come at the expense of his offensive production.
“I’ve changed, just from how the league is and how different the style of play is,” he said. “We’ve got more offensive talent nowadays than we did [in the past]. We did have some real good offensive players, but the stack of offense this year, it’s right up there.
“So I think I’ve changed my game quite a bit because I used to love going on breakaways and stuff like that, but I’ve been trying to focus more on the defensive end now as opposed to going and getting a breakaway or getting a goal. I’d still love to score though.”
He’ll likely get the chance on Saturday when Buffalo hosts Rochester at First Niagara Center on Saturday. Face off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.