I attended a recent Rock-Bandits game in Buffalo, and in my game report, I added an entire section about “Banditland environment notes”. Over the years, I’ve been to a number of NLL games in Buffalo, mostly Rock games. I try to get to at least one Rock @ Bandits game each season, sometimes more than one, and I’ve seen some other non-Rock games there as well. In fact, the first NLL game I ever attended was the Bandits hosting the Philadelphia Wings back in 2000. As for Rock home games, I’ve been at well over 90% of those since 2001.
I decided to write a whole article comparing the experiences of a Rock game in Toronto with a Bandits game in Buffalo. Then I reached out to my audience and twitter followers to see if they had any comments, and got a few. The article ended up getting kinda long so I split it into two. This first one is my own observations. The second one (coming tomorrow) will be other people’s comments as well as a summary.
I’m just talking about the game experience itself – I’m not talking about parking or food options or ticket prices or the quality of the cheese sauce on the nachos (mostly – I’ll touch on this stuff a little in Part II). I know these are all part of the whole “game-day experience” but there’s stadiumjourney.com for that (Toronto gets a 4.1, Buffalo gets a 4.6 – both reviews written by the same guy).
Please remember that when I say “Many fans are <whatever>” or “Many fans <do or don’t do something>”, I don’t mean ALL fans, I just mean “I see this occurring in arena A more often than in arena B”. This could be due to my own biases, or where I sit, or any number of other things. It’s also possible that since many more people generally attend games in Buffalo (13-18k this year) than in Toronto (8-10k), certain things just happen more often. Thus it may seem that something is more prevalent when it’s really the same. I’m sure you and your friends don’t do these terrible things. But others do.
As a rule I don’t generalize. But yes, I know there is some generalization here.
- Very loud
- Swennie (aka Chris Swenson, the Bandits PA announcer) is one of the best. He and the fans have catch phrases for specific players – Dhane Smith, Benesch, Tavares, Steenhuis – and specific situations. Swennie was asking “What’s he got?” on a big save long before they were doing it in Edmonton or Calgary. FYI: His nickname is not “Sweaty” as I once thought it was.
- Fans really get into the game. Chants are sometimes started by fans and sometimes by Swennie. Far more often by the fans than in Toronto.
- Way more fans dress up, colour their hair, wear face paint, hold up painted signs, etc. Very little of that in Toronto.
- I’ve always liked their penalty chant. When an opposing player gets a penalty, they chant “B‑O‑X! B‑O‑X! To the box! To the box! To the box box box!” When I first started going to Bandits games, that was it. In recent years they’ve sped the whole thing up and added a “Woooo” to the end, but I don’t like it quite as much now because the “Woooo” seems to be the focus. Now it’s “B‑O‑X! B‑O‑X! Totheboxtotheboxtotheboxboxbox WOOOOO!“
- I don’t remember Swennie ever taking cheap shots at the other team or players like some other announcers do. Or did before they were let go by the Mammoth. Not to mention any names.
- Very loud, which is a con if you don’t like that sort of thing. But then who goes to a pro sporting event hoping it will be quiet?
- In my experience, there seem to be more “homers” in Buffalo, i.e. booing or screaming for a penalty every time a Bandit is checked (legal or not), booing every time a Bandit is given a penalty (deserved or not), that kind of thing. If I were an NLL ref, I’m not sure I’d like working games in Buffalo.
- At the game that inspired this article, every time a Rock player was hit to the floor and needed the trainer to come out (it happened three times), some Bandits fans around us accused them of faking the injuries. I’ve seen this more often in Buffalo than in Toronto.
- Fewer fans as in previous years but the ones that are left are generally die-hards and are pretty lacrosse-savvy. They will applaud good defensive plays and penalty killing, not just good goals.
- PA announcer Bruce Barker also doesn’t take shots at the other team or its players. The closest he’ll get is saying “Let’s crush the Rush!” or something to that effect, but even that he’ll say once at the beginning of the game and that’s it.
- In playoffs games or overtime, I’ve heard the Toronto crowds get pretty loud. They’re not generally as loud as Buffalo, only in certain situations.
- If an opposing player gets injured and is down on the floor for a while, there is almost always applause when he gets up, even if he has to be carried off the floor. I don’t generally hear accusations of diving or faking injuries, or at least not as many as I have in Buffalo. But that doesn’t mean they don’t occur. (Foreshadowing for Part II)
- Fewer fans as in previous years. I wrote about this last month.
- Quiet for the most part. They obviously shout when the Rock score and when they win and during fights and such, but just during regular play, there’s not much noise.
- Barker does his best to get the crowd fired up but it doesn’t always work. Fans yell “Go Rock Go!” as long as Barker is yelling it over the PA, but once he stops, the crowd stops almost immediately. If Nick Rose makes a great save, Barker yells “Rooooooo-sey!” and sometimes the crowd yells “Roooooo-sey!” back, but sometimes not. But when Rose is having a really good game, the “Rosey”s are louder.
- I’ve heard the crowd start “Go Rock Go” or similar chants by themselves with no help from Barker, but rarely. Usually only in playoff games. There is one that the fans do themselves – when the Rock score, a group of fans (mostly in section 118) stand up, chant the opposing goalie’s last name three times, and then add “You suck!” (This is quite amusing when the Rock score their fifth goal of the game in the fourth quarter while the opponents have 15 or so.) Also, earlier this year Nick Rose was having a spectacular game and a chant of “Rosey! Rosey! Rosey!” started from the fans.
In every arena in the league, there are stories about fans of the opposing team being harassed by home team fans, but as I mentioned above, I have never personally had any trouble at all in Buffalo. I have worn a Toronto Rock jersey to every Bandits/Rock game I’ve been to in Buffalo (except the “Tucker out Lymphoma” night this past April when I wore my “Braver than Brave” t-shirt) and have never been harassed in any way. In fact, after Canada won the hockey gold medal in the 2002 Olympics, I had Bandits fans see my Rock jersey and congratulate me on the victory. I also know some Bandits fans who sit with us at Rock games and they’ve never been harassed because of their Bandits jerseys, except once by Iggy but that was fun.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. But that’s a story for another day.