News | 9/27/2010 4:34:31 PM | BuffaloNews.com
It would be fair to call the Kilgours the First Family of indoor lacrosse in Western New York.
Therefore, it's more than fitting that two of the brothers -- Darris and Rich -- will be the first two people associated with the sport to be inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame when they enter together.
A Kilgour has had a role in the Buffalo Bandits throughout the franchise's life. Both men started playing lacrosse as they grew up on the Tuscarora Reservation in Niagara County.
"We grew up 100 yards from a place where they made wooden lacrosse sticks," said Rich Kilgour, at 41 a year older than Darris. "Wes Patterson was a Tuscarora. ... He started a lacrosse factory here. My mom strung up sticks. My father worked there, and bent sticks.
"A lot of people grew up on the rez and got a stick. I wouldn't say the game was forced on us."
The Kilgours -- including younger brother Travis -- were always out in the yard, practicing their skills and playing games with the rest of the neighborhood.
"Rich and I fought a lot in those days," Darris said. "We competed over everything -- clothes, girls -- every moment of every day. I know it helped me in my career. I always had to work to be a little bit better. Without him, I wouldn't have been the player I became."
In those backyard games, the Kilgours never played the traditional 11-on-11 outdoor game that is the usual alignment. There weren't enough kids around.
It was the six-on-six indoor game that proved attractive to the family. Rich said the brothers went to Canada for formal games.
"We played in Ontario, where the kids played it like they do hockey," he said. "We were only five minutes from the border."
The two brothers went to Niagara-Wheatfield High School. Rich was all-Western New York, while Darris was an All-American. Then they attended Nazareth College for a while, with Rich playing two years there.
But they stayed close to the indoor game. When the Bandits were formed to start play during the 1992 season, the Kilgours were ready to play. The question was, would Buffalo be ready for the Bandits? Rich remembers being petrified about how the team would be received by an area that had little lacrosse history.
"I was afraid for real that no one would be at the first couple of games," he said. "They had to delay the start of the [first] game because people were lined up for a block at the old Aud. The first game had something like 9,000. Then we went to 13,000, and then we were sold out for the next 2 1/2 years."
Darris added, "In the Aud, you couldn't really see the stands until you were out on the floor. But coming out, you could just feel the buzz in the arena."
The two Kilgours were part of league championship teams in 1992, 1993 and 1996. Darris had to retire after the 1999 season because of a bad hip, but Rich played until 2009 -- long enough to serve under his brother when Darris came back as coach and general manager in 2002. The two helped the Bandits win another title in 2008.
"Buffalo is definitely a flagship of the NLL, and it has been for a while," Rich said. "We had a couple of down years, but then we got Darris as head coach and we're back up to 17,000 [fans] a game. I can't explain it. Twenty years ago, you couldn't spell lacrosse. At least 8,000 people now wear orange wigs every game. We grew up playing in front of mom and dad. To see this come along -- it's unbelievable."
Darris added, "I tell these guys that this isn't going to last forever, enjoy it while they can. I say, 'This is special, guys. How many guys can say that at a part-time job, people chant their names and ask for their autographs?' This isn't a right, it's a privilege."
Darris is preparing for his ninth year as head coach with the Bandits, while Rich is a new assistant coach on the team while also serving as head coach of the men's squad at Niagara County Community College.
As they prepare to enter the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, they realize that taking a bow before family and friends will be quite a moment.
"I think this is my fifth [Hall of Fame], and every one is very special," Darris said. "But to win this honor at home -- it's very good to be recognized. Nobody had ever heard of lacrosse years ago, and now the landscape has changed so much. It's great to have a hand in that."
"I was looking through the memorabilia in HSBC Arena," said Rich, who joined his brother in the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame earlier this month. "To see a lot of those names and know my name is going to join them, and to go in with my brother as the first two to have played lacrosse ... there are so many things about my career that I just can't explain.
"Twenty years ago, if you had said lacrosse players would be in the Hall of Fame, people would have laughed. I don't know how much more special it can get."