It’s becoming something of a rite of spring. As the Buffalo Bandits’ regular season winds down, John Tavares has to discuss his future. It’s a natural subject once the birthdays have gone past 40.
Tavares said Saturday that he’s not sure if he’ll be back next year to play as a 45-year-old.
“I have not made a decision. It’s way too early,” Tavares said. “I’ve played this year with nagging injuries. It’s kind of frustrating. I don’t even know if I’m playing summer lacrosse yet. I hope to play, but age is obviously catching up to me. I’ve been pretty fortunate to play up to this point. Do I want to play? Yes. Can I play? I’m not sure.”
Tavares plays for Peterborough in Ontario’s summer league. He has told that team that he would like to play this coming season, health permitting. The forward got a reminder about his situation when he tore a calf muscle last week against Washington.
The Bandits average about a game a week, while Peterborough can have a more crammed schedule. That can take a toll.
“In Peterborough, it’s so many games in a short period of time, especially in the playoffs,” Tavares said. “Last year, in the Ontario finals against Six Nations, that took a lot out of my body. You’re expected to play injured. I had a bad hamstring, and I played through that but I was exhausted and sore. When I’m 25, I don’t mind. But at 44, I can’t function during the day.”
Tavares has said that the status of the team has never been a factor in his annual decision about whether to return. As long as he can contribute, he wants to do so.
“I do enjoy playing,” he said. “The one thing that strikes me is that this has been my worst statistical year. Last year I did well, this year not so well. I don’t want to say it’s my age. It’s more my health.”
Tavares was suffering from a torn calf muscle in Saturday’s game, and couldn’t run. He only had one assist in the game as he was limited to power-play duty, so he finished the season with 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points in 12 games. It hasn’t been a great offensive year for anyone in a Bandits uniform.
“I’ve always been the type of player that is dependent on others to perform for me to be successful,” he said. “If my teammates aren’t scoring, I’m not going to be scoring as much either. … I’ve never been able to carry a team on my back.”
Tavares hasn’t had a season close to this since 2010, when injuries limited him to 49 points.
While Tavares doesn’t bounce back from injuries like he did as a rookie way back in 1992, one matter hasn’t changed. He still loves the competition. Games like Saturday’s against Rochester, with so much at stake for both sides, get him excited.
“I always like meaningful games,” Tavares said. “I don’t like the games when we’re up by 10 goals.”
Bandits defender David Brock was an injury away from making his debut as a goaltender in the last two weeks.
Last week Anthony Cosmo was suffering from a concussion and couldn’t play against the Stealth. That meant Kurtis Wagar was the starter, but there was no one behind him. The coaching staff went looking for someone to serve as an emergency backup.
“They were looking for volunteers because of the situation with Cosmo. … I’m looking around and nobody is putting a hand up,” Brock said. “I stuck the hand up. I had never played goalie before. But it was for the good of the team, so I said why not?”
Brock had never been a lacrosse goalie, even while clowning around in a practice.
“Me and Kurt made a few jokes during the day,” he said. “I asked, ‘What if they run you? Is there anything you need to know?’ ”
Wagar finished the game last week, and did the same against Rochester on Saturday.
Cosmo reported some dizziness during the morning shootaround and could not play against the Knighthawks.