“All good things must come to an end.”
Unfortunately for lacrosse fans, this adage became all too real on September 2nd, 2015. The Buffalo Bandits called a press conference, fittingly at 11:00 a.m., to announce the retirement of National Lacrosse League legend John Tavares.
One of the best players to ever pick up a lacrosse stick, Tavares retires as the league’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points. He raised the Champion’s Cup four times (1992, 1993, 1996 and 2008) and played in 344 NLL games.
The announcement came before what would have been Tavares’ 25th year in the league as he turns 47 in just a few days. The Bandits acquired Tavares in a trade with the Detroit Turbos after they selected him in the third round. That may go down as the greatest trade in NLL history.
“I’m here to announce my retirement from the best place to play in the NLL, Buffalo,” Tavares said. “I’ve always had hardworking, good teammates who loved the game of lacrosse. The hardest part of letting go will be not being able to perform for the fans. It’s hard for me to let go.
“My mind says ‘go,’ but my body says ‘no.'”
Tavares reflected on how the game has changed over his illustrious 24-year career.
“The game is faster now,” he admitted. “Guys are more athletic and in better shape. The league is definitely headed in the right direction.”
What’s next for Tavares? Bandits Head Coach Troy Cordingley announced the big news.
“John will now be the offensive coach of the Bandits,” Cordingley said. “He’s a very intelligent person and player. As a teacher, he teaches really well. As soon as he made the decision to retire we offered him the job. With ‘JT’ and Rich (Kilgour) behind the bench, it’s exciting. How can guys not give 100% with him back there.”
Tavares understands his new role as a coach will be difficult.
“Being an offensive coach could be the toughest job,” he said. “A lot of guys will be out there and they’ll all want to produce. You have to encourage them to share the ball all the time.”
Bandits Director of Lacrosse Operations Scott Loffler described the press conference today as “bittersweet.”
“I’m most impressed with how he did it; he did it with class and with humility,” Loffler said. “It’s only right that we put his name up there [in the rafters]. When you talk about the Bandits, you have to name him. We’ll look at dates and see what works best for John, his family and the organization [to retire his jersey].”
Cordingley had an interesting perspective on Tavares’ long career.
“I’ve played with him, I’ve coached against him, I’ve coached him and now I’ll coach with him,” he said. “It’s unreal. Tavares is the last of the original Bandits. It’s like I’m retiring, too. I can always say ‘I played with that guy, he was on my line’ and now he’s finished. It’s remarkable.”
John’s family was in attendance for the press conference and his wife Katrina knew this would be an emotional day.
“We’re happy, there’s a part of him that still wants to keep playing. Up until last night, he was saying ‘I’m going to go to that press conference and tell everyone I’m going to play this year,'” Katrina said with a laugh. “I’m so happy for him to have a chance to step forward and coach. John’s never the type of person to take things…things have to come to him. In this sense, it worked out perfectly that he could stay with the Bandits.”
The Bandits now look ahead to the 2015 NLL Draft at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre on Monday, September 28 where the ageless wonder John Tavares will be behind the draft table, helping guide the team into a new era, as the face of the franchise past, present and future.
By Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) for NLL.com. Click here to watch the official retirement press conference.