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Chris & Brett Swenson Are the Bedrocks of Banditland

The Buffalo Bandits epitomize the National Lacrosse League at its very best. Five league championships, generations of superstar players, a rabid and loyal fan-base and a support staff fully dedicated to maximizing the power and majesty that is Banditland.

Two of the cornerstones of this effort are the father-son combo of KeyBank Center public address announcer Chris Swenson and ball boy extraordinaire Brett Swenson. The elder Swenson has been the in-arena voice of the Bandits since the franchise first debuted in 1992, while his 21-year-old son has been a fixture of the lacrosse operation dating back to 2009.

For 60-year-old Chris, becoming so synonymous with the Bandits’ viewing experience was not a consideration of his initial career-planning efforts.

“When the Sabres came to me and asked if I would do the public address for Bandits’ games, I had no idea who the Bandits were. They told me just to have fun and do what you want to do with it, which was so much different from what the NHL would allow you do,” noted the man who spent 15 seasons as Buffalo’s pro hockey PA announcer.

Swenson quickly took a liking to his new role as the lacrosse voice of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (known locally as The Aud), bellowing into the microphone during Bandits’ championship runs in 1992, 1993 and 1996, before helping to facilitate a brand-new fan immersion when the club relocated to the newly constructed Marine Midland Arena after winning the ’96 title.

Nearly three decades into their existence at the now-named KeyBank Center, Swenson and the Bandits have taken the NLL viewing experience to a previously unimaginable level.

“My PA style from day one has involved being an extension of the fanbase. Trying to connect and be a voice for the fans. Finding ways to bring the fans closer to the team, almost doing a pseudo play-by-play. I want the fans to know who the players are.”

Swenson added, “I love to see the energy in the building translating to helping the on-field performance. At a very small level we have the opportunity to influence things and make it uncomfortable for the visiting team, but in a respectable way.”

Brett and Chris Swenson take a selfie with the NLL Cup

At the very same time as Chris’ unmistakable voice is reverberating throughout every corner of Banditland, his son Brett is on the field, in and out of the locker room and behind the bench aiding players and coaches in their efforts to bring a victory to the fine folks of Western New York.

Considered the true “heart and soul” of the organization, Brett is an integral part of every aspect of the Bandits’ game-day operation.

“Scott Loffler (Senior Director of Lacrosse Operations), God bless the man. He doesn’t limit Brett in any way. While being respectful and not crossing the line, Brett is giving pregame speeches, has access to the locker room and the boys embrace him. He’s now 21 so he may even open a can of Labatt Blue with the guys,” extolled Swenson.

The Bandits’ father-son connection has provided the Swenson family with profound levels of joy and fulfillment. Swenson credits the team’s affection for Brett with keeping him in the game all these years, while the legendary ball boy reciprocates the kindness by pouring every fiber of his being into all things Bandits.

“For both of us it’s off the charts. I probably would not still be doing this if not for the way the team treats my son. It’s 100 per cent genuine the way the players and leadership, especially John Tavares and Scott Loffler, love my son. To Brett it means everything.”

Swenson later shared, “There’s not a day that goes by where Brett is not wearing Bandits merchandise. He talks about that day’s game and the next game. We talk about what we’re going to do for the next game and what time we’re heading to the arena. The Bandits are always on his mind.”

Chris and Brett, along with the pair’s less public wife/mother Geralyn and daughter/sister Sarah, created a lifelong memory last June, when the whole family was on hand to witness Buffalo’s first NLL championship since 2008. In addition to Chris’ work on the mic, the whole family participated in the celebration with Sarah spending time on the field, while her brother hung out in the locker room, posing for photos and exchanging autographs with the newly crowned champs.

From both a professional and personal standpoint, Swenson checked all the boxes during this one.

“Of the five championships I’ve lived through, last year was the most special for me because I got to share it with my family. It couldn’t have been more special.”

Thirty-two years into his Bandits’ tenure, Chris Swenson is filled with pride when discussing how Buffalo has become a destination for the world’s greatest box lacrosse players, thanks to the unbelievable atmosphere of excellence that exists inside the club and among its legions of loyal supporters.

“The sense is a lot of players look at Banditland as a place to come. It’s a primary spot for a lot of folks,” expressed Swenson. “Not only do we draw the crowds, but you also have the support from the team. It’s always been a winning culture. The organization has always put their best foot forward, whether it’s making trades and finding the right players to be competitive. Some people may not like it, but the Bandits are the Yankees of lacrosse.”

As for any advice the renowned public address announcer may offer to those already in the business, or to the folks who aspire to exercise their vocal cords to the masses, for Swenson it’s all about appreciating your audience.

“If it’s the fourth quarter, and we’re down seven or eight goals, I’m not screaming in the microphone and getting people to do an unnatural thing. You have to be able to read the room.  Do your best to keep things light and entertaining, but don’t scream in the microphone and annoy folks.”