Buffalo Bandits fans might have done a few double-takes at the start of Saturday’s game against the Toronto Rock. That really was Chris White in a Toronto uniform, trying to stop Buffalo from winning.
White seemed like he was going to be a Bandit for life. After spending his first two National Lacrosse League seasons in Albany and San Jose, White found a home in Western New York. White spent eight seasons as a Bandit, serving as the team’s captain at times.
“It was a very tough decision,” White said about the move to Toronto. “It was one of the most difficult decisions of my playing career after being with Buffalo for eight years. I learned a lot from Darris and Rich Kilgour and all my teammates. It’s a great organization.”
White became a free agent after the 2012 season. When Toronto called, the Peterborough, Ont., native realized his life could become a bit simpler with a shorter drive to the Rock’s practices and games.
“It was a move to get a little closer to home with the opportunity Toronto presented me,” White said. “They are also a top-notch organization. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Since Toronto and Buffalo play a similar system, the defenseman didn’t have a huge adjustment in playing style. The biggest change, then, has been all of the new faces.
“I think things are starting to come together for me,” he said. “The last couple of weekends I’ve had a better feel for the guys around me. Overall, we’ve been doing a great job back there.”
White certainly knew the way to the arena on Saturday night. Before the game, he said he was looking forward to seeing some old friends.
“I’m feeling a little bit of excitement,” he said. “Once you get on the floor, you have to put those thoughts behind you. We have to focus on the game.”
After the game, White said that he was happy to have the chance to play in the atmosphere provided by the 15,000 fans in the First Niagara Center. He mentioned that some of his teammates told him that they were happy that White won on their side for a change for a game in Buffalo.
Coach Troy Cordingley didn’t notice that White tried to run to the wrong bench at any point Saturday.
“I asked him if he wanted me to hold his hand when we went out, and he said he was fine,” Cordingley said with a smile. “He’s a veteran. I love the way that he’s such a great communicator on defense.”
Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said: “Chris White was a big part of the Bandits for a long time. We’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Mark Steenhuis had one of the most impressive goals of the night as part of his hat trick for the Bandits.
Steenhuis took a hit to the head from Toronto’s Damon Edwards that knocked his helmet flying, but he carried on into the Toronto zone to score a big goal in the fourth quarter. Edwards picked up a match penalty on the play.
“It wasn’t too bad. It looked worse than it was,” Steenhuis said. “He hit me good and the helmet slipped up my head.”
Life is good for the Rock after improving to 5-1 on the season after Saturday’s win. Still, Cordingley isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It’s a cliche, but it’s true; we know the parity that exists in this league. Anybody can beat anybody,” he said. “Our first goal is to make the playoffs. We’ll take the wins as we get them.”
John Tavares of the Bandits missed the game with a calf injury. Kilgour said after the game that the team will make sure that Tavares is 100 percent healthy before returning. Defender Mike McNamara is out with a hamstring injury.
Jimmy Purves and Nick Cotter were back in Buffalo’s lineup on Saturday. Kevin Brownell was added to the 23-man roster for the game but was a scratch. The transition player was a third-round draft choice of the Bandits last fall after finishing an outstanding college career at Robert Morris.