Buffalo Bandits forward Shawn Williams, the NLL's record holder for consecutive games played, is set to extend his ironman streak to 200 straight games this weekend. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Buffalo Bandits forward Shawn Williams, the National Lacrosse League’s record holder for consecutive games played, is set to reach a milestone in his ironman streak by playing 200th straight game this weekend against the Philadelphia Wings at home at First Niagara Center.
It was just last season that Williams, known by many around the league as “Willy”, broke Steve Toll and Colin Doyle’s record of 188 straight games. Coincidentally, Williams played his 189th-straight game against the Wings last year.
When reminded that he would hit 200 on Saturday night, Williams seemed appreciative of the streak but humbly downplayed the achievement overall.
“To be honest, I don’t think about that,” Williams said. “But as you get older, you definitely enjoy stepping on the floor every chance you get.”
But the 38-year old has been doing a lot more than just stepping out on the floor as he's Buffalo's leading scorer so far this year. Williams recorded a game-high eight-points (2+6) with the primary assist on Tracey Kelusky’s behind-the-back game-winning goal with just 12 seconds left against the Rochester Knighthawks last weekend.
Putting up that kind of performance is no surprise for the 16-year veteran, but it is particularly sweet when it comes against a former team.
This past Saturday marked Williams return to Blue Cross Arena for the first time since his former team, the Edmonton Rush, lost the 2012 NLL Championship game to the Knighthawks. Williams was with the Rush for just one season, having spent the previous 10 years sporting a Knighthawks uniform.
Following the championship game, Williams was the only Rush player who remained on the field throughout the Champion’s Cup ceremony. As soon as Rochester captain Pat McCready raised the Cup, Williams vacated the floor.
“It was bittersweet going back there last year,” he said. “[Staying on the floor] wasn’t premeditated, I just owed it to [my former teammates] and to myself just to watch. I didn’t stay for the whole celebration, just to see [the Cup] go up and then I let them enjoy it.”
To return to Rochester on the night they raised their banner and put up eight points in a dramatic victory must have offered him some semblance of relief from the crushing defeat he experienced last May.
Williams played two seasons with Buffalo before moving on to Rochester in 2002. His ironman streak began on March 11, 2000 when Williams put up four points (1+3) after missing the previous game with a broken orbital bone.
Despite taking a ball to the face through his facemask from his own teammate Chris Driscoll, Williams had still expected to play in the game he missed.
“I went to practice on the Tuesday expecting to play on the Friday and they informed me that they put me on the [IR] for the week, so I had to sit out,” he said. “I was obviously disappointed, but it was probably for the better.”
Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour was still playing in the NLL the last time Williams missed a game.
“Willy is one of the few guys [still playing] that I actually have [memories] of playing against, so that just shows how long he’s been around,” Kilgour said recently about his newly-acquired forward.
“He’s a tremendous leader,” Kilgour continued. “He came into this team this year and he stepped right into a leadership role, that’s how he ended up with the ‘A’ on his chest. A great teammate overall.”
Williams attributes much of his successful lengthy career to the everlasting support he receives from his wife and his kids, and of course, his parents.
“It’s huge, without a doubt. If you don’t have family support, it makes it tough leaving every weekend,” he said. “My family, from parents to my wife and all my kids are my biggest fans.
“They’re always watching if they can get down to the game, if not they’re always watching on NLL.com and YouTube now. They’re definitely always rooting for me and they don’t want it to end just like I don’t want it to end."