The Buffalo Bandits’ Shawn Williams is used to seeing fans wearing team memorabilia at home games.
He’s not used to seeing fans wearing “Braver than Brave” shirts to show support for his son Tucker’s battle with lymphoma.
“Just talking about it gives me goose bumps,” Williams said. “It’s a very surreal feeling.”
Imagine, then, how Williams will feel tonight when he and the rest of the Bandits take part in “Tucker Out Lymphoma Night” at First Niagara Center. It’s part of the festivities surrounding tonight’s game with the Calgary Roughnecks (7 p.m., nll.com, Radio 1520 AM).
“Everything has been overwhelming in the support category,” the veteran forward added. “I’ve been blown away by what the whole organization has done this year.”
The list of activities for tonight is a long one:
• Five dollars from every $15 ticket purchased in the 300 section will go toward Tucker’s fight.
• “Braver than Brave” jerseys will go on sale at the Sabres Store beginning at 3 p.m. The store also will sell “Braver than Brave” T-shirts for $15.
• For $10, fans can purchase a lacrosse ball that is autographed by a player or coach or by the entire team. For $51, they can buy one of 51 “Braver than Brave” orange hats that are autographed by the complete roster.
• A sports memorabilia auction will be held on the concourse outside of sections 107-109.
Williams reports that there’s no sign that his 8-year-old son’s ego is growing with all the attention.
“There are no swelled heads in our family,” he said. “He knows what’s going on for him. He gets a taste of it. He’s a trouper. We were able to come home and let him go outside this week before he went back to the hospital for treatments.”
It’s been a difficult few months for Williams, but assistant coach Rich Kilgour says the veteran is handling the matter as well as possible.
“He’s done great. Everyone can say what they’d do in that situation, but I can’t imagine what it’s like,” Kilgour said. “He’s been a complete professional. The team has been great to rally around him. He never mentions one word about it. He keeps it to himself unless you ask him. I think this weekend will show how much people respect him. Hopefully this will be a great weekend for his family.”
Williams’ offensive numbers are down this season, as he has 36 points in his 13 games. That would be understandable under the circumstances, but it’s more due to the fact that his role in the offense has changed this season. With players such as Ryan Benesch and Mark Steenhuis on the attacking unit, the offense doesn’t revolve around him as much as it did last year.
“You do what the coaches have asked,” Williams said. “When you are winning, it’s easy. But when you are losing, people try to squeeze the stick a little too hard.”
There’s been a little squeezing going on lately. The Bandits come into tonight’s game on a three-game losing streak, their longest of the season. The impressive 8-2 record that the team had after its last home game has fallen to 8-5.
The loss in Edmonton could be expected, since the Rush are the talk of the National Lacrosse League with their 13-0 record heading into tonight’s game with Colorado. But defeats to Minnesota and Washington, teams at the bottom of their respective divisions, are more difficult to explain.
“There’s still a lot of balance in this league,” Williams said. “People can say you’re playing a last-place team, but anyone can play well on a given night. We definitely haven’t been sticking to our plan, that’s for sure. We haven’t done the things that got us to that good record.”
The Bandits clinched a playoff spot Friday night. The Rochester Knighthawks erased a 14-11 deficit in the final 3:38 of regulation, and won in overtime, 15-14, over the Minnesota Swarm. That means the Bandits can finish no lower than third in the NLL East. Buffalo missed the postseason in 2013 for the first time since 2002.