By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
Once around the world of indoor lacrosse, driver:
First things first. Darris Kilgour, an original Buffalo Bandit and also a coach and general manager of the team for several seasons, is in tough shape these days.
A family member has started a GoFundMe page in attempt to raise money for Kilgour, who is said to have suffered multiple injuries to his legs. He was involved in a hit-and-run accident on Sept. 2.
Kilgour has a lot of work in front of him. He is looking at as much as 10 months in a wheelchair, and won’t be able to work for quite a while. The fund-raising campaign is designed to help adapt his home to his new circumstances, which involves ramps up to the house, widening doors, etc.
More than $7,000 had been raised as of Thursday morning. The goal is $25,000. Some of that money has been donated in $43 amounts, a salute to his uniform number as a Bandit.
Kilgour coached the Bandits from 2003 to 2013, and also served as general manager for some of that time period. Before that, he played on the team from 1992 to 1999. Therefore he was a big part of the four championships won by Buffalo in its history.
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THE WAIT GOES ON
Am I the only one that’s wondering what’s going to happen with the Bandits’ coaching staff for the 2018-19 season?
Actually no. The members of the lacrosse department are rather puzzled too. And, in some cases, they are angry about the delay. It will be impossible to find other work now.
The last word on the situation came when Steve Dietrich was told he was set to come back as general manager in June. No options were said to be off the table, although the contracts of head coach Troy Cordingley and assistant coaches John Tavares and Rich Kilgour had expired.
Now it’s September, and still there has been no comment on it. The team website still has the old coaching staff in place. The general assumption for many has been that Cordingley’s time here is over, although nothing has been confirmed. With the draft coming up and free agent signings ready to open up as soon as collective bargaining details are worked out, you’d think you’d want everything in place soon. Heck , the season is only two and a half months away.
Cordingley’s departure would lead to some interesting possibilities. Rich Kilgour has been waiting for a chance for quite a while, and has paid his dues as a head coach in Ontario’s summer league. He might even play “good cop” to Cordingley’s “bad cop.” Cordingley and Darris Kilgour are/were high pressure coaches in terms of approaches to players, and a change in attitude might be necessary. I should add that Rich Kilgour also seemed more the capable of taking charge with authority when necessary at times as a Bandits’ assistant.
But do the Bandits have an obligation to talk to Tavares first about it? He is the face of the franchise, as we know, and would be a popular choice. Then again, maybe a completely new voice in the locker room would be helpful.
A BUSY DAY
The rumors had been coming for quite a while. On Thursday, they came true.
Curt Styres announced that he was moving the Rochester Knighthawks to Halifax, Nova Scotia. But Rochester isn’t going without a team. Terry and Kim Pegula have been granted an expansion franchise to Rochester.
This will go into effect for the 2019-20 season. Therefore, the Knighthawks will remain under Styres’ management for the upcoming season.
The short conclusion: the Pegulas will own both the Bandits and the Knighthawks. And yes, it is legal under the National Lacrosse League bylaws.
It’s not an ideal situation, even though it has been done in Major League Soccer at times. I’m not sure who will receive the Pegulas’ cheers when Buffalo plays Rochester. But more to the point, the Pegulas will keep the Knighthawks in Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. The Americans hockey team is already there and owned by the Pegulas.
The Pegulas announced at a news conference that they would put up a new scoreboard at the Rochester facility. It’s part of $18 million package of improvements, that will come from Pegula Sports and Entertainment along with the State of New York. The list will also include a new locker room, lighting upgrades, and offices.
There has been talk for some time about building a brand-new arena in Rochester, but we’ll have to see what happens there.
The Knighthawks’ name will stay in Rochester under the Pegulas. Other details have yet to be announced. However, there are some obvious questions. Will the entire Rochester roster go to Halifax, or will some stay behind? Will the “new” Knighthawks use the record book of the “old” Knighthawks, or will they start from scratch?
Styres obviously hopes that Halifax will turn into another Saskatoon, a medium-sized Canadian city without competition for the pro sports dollar. Saskatoon has embraced the Rush, filling up the arena there. However, it’s fair to say that Halifax is a bit of an odd fit with other possible expansion sites, which are mostly good-sized American cities such as New York (Long Island), Boston, Dallas or St. Louis.
The Knighthawks averaged less than 7,000 fans per game last season, ranking sixth in a nine-team league. That’s in spite of the fact that Rochester has been very successful in the past decade (three titles under Styres), and was in the finals last season. In other words, there has to be some question about whether Rochester is a long-term fit in the NLL in terms of support, even with the Pegulas’ ownership.
THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES
The NLL’s draft isn’t far away.
The date is on Tuesday, Sept. 25. It will take place at 6 p.m. in Philadelphia, and the Bandits will play a major role in it.
The league’s two expansion teams, San Diego and Philadelphia, will lead off the draft with picks in the first round. But the Bandits will go third and fourth, thanks to acquiring the first-round choice from Vancouver earlier.
The most interesting name in the draft pool is Austin Staats, a two-time All-American at Onondaga Community College in the Syracuse area. The native of Six Nations, Ont., is considered the proverbial “generational talent.”
While any team could use that, talk of the Bandits trying to trade up to get Staats has cooled. Insiders hint that the Bandits will try to improve their transition and defensive games with the two high draft choices. The offense, with such players as Dhane Smith, Shawn Evans, Mitch Jones and Josh Byrne, seems relatively set.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB.)