After a football season in which Buffalo's professional home team fell apart down the stretch, 1 local pro team is starting to defend a championship title that they won last year. The Buffalo Bandits National Lacrosse League team opened up the 2009 season in memorable fashion in front of a sold out crowd in Buffalo's HSBC Arena. Prior to the game itself, an onfield ceremony was held, dedicating the season to Buffalo News writer Tom Borelli, well-known as the best writer in lacrosse, who passed away this past November. The Bandits will be wearing a sticker on the back of their helmets all year with his initials and a lacrosse stick and pen crossed beneath them.
After the ceremony, the Championship Banner was raised commemorating the 2008 Championship Season before the Bandits faced off against the Philadelphia Wings. After a lethargic 1st quarter, the Bandits poured on the scoring with 4 goals from game MVP Mark Steenhuis and 3 from legendary John Tavares and even received a goal from new addition Tom Montour, a former Bandit acquired in a trade for a 2010 1st round draft pick. Given his contributions off the scoresheet, it looks like the trade is going to pay off for the Bandits.
The Bandits weren't alone in celebrating a championship season as the league's premier dance team, the Buffalo Bandettes, met and posed for pictures with fans entering the game before taking the field themselves for crisp dance performances all night long. What should be noted about this is the changes in the Bandettes roster. In past years, turnover has been minimal on the squad and it's usually just a matter of incorporating 3-5 girls maximum into the squad. This year, however, only 8 of last year's 15-girl squad returns along with 2 vets from past years and 5 brand new rookie Bandettes! By their performance, unless you actually knew ahead of time which were veterans and which were rookies, telling them apart was pretty much impossible as newcomers Erin M, Alexis, Lauren, Kirsten, and Maggie melded in with Danielle, Denise and the holdovers from last year's squad.