By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
No. 8: October, 1991 – The Bandits trade Brian Nikula to Detroit for John Tavares.
The Major Indoor Lacrosse League (forerunner of the National Lacrosse League) was coming to Buffalo in 1992, and the Bandits were putting together a roster for their first season the preceding autumn. No one had much of a clue what indoor lacrosse was like, let alone how popular a team would be here.
As the team gathered for the first time, the roster was unsettled. Goalie Bill Gerrie had seen John Tavares play in Canada, and told general manager Johnny Mouradian that the young forward would be a great addition. Mouradian listened, and in October, 1991, acquired Tavares from the Detroit Turbos for Brian Nikula. Here’s how big the deal was at the time: No one, inside of the league or out, knows when exactly it was made. There is no mention of an exact date in newspapers or team publications.
Neither side knew then that the Turbos had just traded the player who would become the greatest indoor lacrosse player in history. It was lacrosse’s answer to Babe Ruth becoming a Yankee. Tavares owns many of the scoring records in league history, and is still contributing to the team as co-coach with Rich Kilgour. What’s more, Nikula came back to play for the Bandits in 1994.
By the way, the Turbos had two other lacrosse greats on their roster at the time of the deal, twins Gary and Paul Gait. Imagine those two joining with Tavares on the same roster.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)