The Buffalo Bandits hit the turf at Key Bank Center Saturday morning to open up training camp. The weekend was originally scheduled to be the team’s home opener, but a dispute over a new collective bargaining agreement between the players union and team owners delayed the start of the season by two weeks.
“Well initially I thought we’re going to miss camp for the first week and everything will get settled in,” said Bandits legend and now co-head coach John Tavares. “And then we missed the second week and I went ‘woah, things are not looking good right now.’ - So I was getting a little worried for the actual season. Because pretty much all lacrosse players want to see the league grow.”
The main point of conflict between the two sides dealt with “lacrosse related revenue,” which is a catch all term used to describe things like concession, merchandise, parking, and sponsorship money. The players wanted a percentage of that money, and while terms have not been released publicly, it has been reported that players were offered percentages of broadcast and sponsorship dollars.
For newly acquired Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc though, it was hard to sit sidelined from the sport while the two sides hammered out the details.
“It was kind of a little bit out of our control. But also, we wanted the fairest deal, and I think both sides must have reached that for this day [first practice] to come,” said Vinc. “It was a little bit of a relief when they signed that [CBA] on Saturday, and I got word that we actually got the go to make this day happen.”
The coaching staff will have their work cut out for them during training camp. Because of the labor dispute delay, the team is holding a two week training camp with only two scrimmages. The 30 players who have been brought in to camp will have to have to bring their A game if they want to crack the 21-man roster ahead of the regular season.
The Bandits made a few key additions to the roster over the offseason. The team drafted two first round picks (Matt Gilray and Ian MacKay), signed defending Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc to a three-year deal, and traded for veteran forward Corey Small. With those additions, the team is hopeful they can snap a two year streak of missing the playoffs.
The Bandits will open up things on the road December 15th in an afternoon match-up against the Philadelphia Wings, before returning home to Buffalo the following weekend to welcome the Toronto Rock to Key Bank Center.