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The Buffalo Bandits Are More Than Just the Players On The Field

The Buffalo Bandits are the undisputed emperors of the NLL universe. Two consecutive league Championships, four straight NLL Finals appearance, an uber-talented roster and a fanbase unrivaled in professional lacrosse. In every single phase of the game, Buffalo is the place to be.

While the players on the field rightfully garner the lion’s share of the accolades, behind the scenes, there is a collection of highly-talented professionals contributing significantly to the thunderous juggernaut that is Bandits lacrosse.

During the course of the 2023-2024 season, NLL.com chronicled the exploits of public address announcer Chris Swenson and his son Brett, a ball boy. Two other Bandits’ employees who play enormous roles in the franchise’s robust level of success are Head Athletic Trainer Ryan Rajk and Vice President of Marketing Cara Murphy.

Rajk has been an integral member of the club’s medical staff for six years, taking care of the players’ physical well-being in concert with his responsibilities at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. The Canisius University alum was brought to the organization by Dr. Michael A. Rauh, UBMD physician/Bandits medical director and head orthopaedic surgeon.

Rajk was over the moon when recounting his feelings regarding Buffalo’s budding dynasty.

“It’s so gratifying,” proclaimed Rajk. “It’s a lot of work and time away from the family. The end result has been very satisfying the last two years.” The Syracuse native later shared that there is an extra bit of contentment surrounding the team’s recent championship round disappointments.

“We’ve been on the opposite side of it losing to Colorado and Calgary,” he said. “You just feel like you’re so close to then lose it at the end. These last couple years have been great. I’ve never been a champion before. Becoming a champion has been surreal. Last year was like a relief. Now that we’ve done it two years in a row I’m getting used to it. I hope it never ends.”

Rajk wholeheartedly believes the way in which a player conducts his business away from the bright lights of KeyBank Center remains the key to attaining both current-day success and long-term prosperity when adorning an NLL uniform.

“It’s all about the mindset of how you can be better. You have to take care of your body,” emphasized Rajk. “You can’t just grab a lacrosse stick and think everything is going to be great. You need to work out and eat the right way, especially during the season. You need to know how your body reacts to things and continuedly take care of it.”

The former college baseball player followed up this commentary by heaping a bouquet of praise on Bandits’ goaltending icon Matt Vinc: “Vinc is one of the oldest guys in the league and he’s also one of the fittest guys in the league.”

At 42 years old, the St. Catharines, Ontario product is as good as he’s even been despite debuting in the NLL all the way back in 2006.

Corresponding with the publicly held viewpoints of players like Vinc, Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith, Rajk has yet to take for granted the unbelievable level of support continually displayed by the Buffalo fans. For the former high school and college sports medicine professional, working for the Bandits is truly a labor of love.

“I get chills after hearing the national anthem, followed by the ‘Lets go Bandits’ chant. I feel goosebumps and I know the players do as well. It’s awesome! Like no other location in the league. There’s nothing quite like Banditland.”

One of the people that Rajk and other members of the lacrosse operations side of the franchise owe a debt of gratitude towards is the previously mentioned Cara Murphy, who has been working in the Bandits and Sabres’ marketing department since 2013, assuming her leadership position in 2022.

The longtime NLL/NHL marketing guru is immensely proud of what the Buffalo Bandit brand has evolved into.

“It is extremely gratifying to see the success the team has had, what it has done for the city and most importantly the joy it brings to Buffalo and our fans. The Bandits have built something special here in Buffalo and the city and our fans have rallied behind them every step of the way,” asserted the fellow Canisius alum.

Murphy credits a slew of on and off the floor factors when contemplating the Bandits’ remarkable imprint on the fine folks of Western New York.

Within the walls of the organization’s 19,000-seat home arena patrons are treated to a world class fan experience that combines a scorching style of lacrosse with a nonstop thrill ride of bagpipes, chants and other traditions that conjures an unsurpassed home-floor advantage.

When the game ends, the team’s highly accessible and marketable players proudly make the necessary connections with their beloved community, appearing at schools, camps, youth leagues, charitable endeavors and other promotional efforts. The love affair between players and fans is in no way a one-way street.

“There is longstanding tradition here with the Buffalo Bandits,” opined Murphy. “We have an amazing fan base with a true connection to this team. From past coaches and alumni to the current roster, there is a strong affinity for the team and the brand. I think fans feel connected not only to the team but one another. There is a sense of camaraderie among our fans; they’ve embraced lacrosse in Western New York and have embraced being a part of Banditland!”

Courtesy of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills living on the losing side of four Super Bowls, the Music City Miracle and a string of recent gut-wrenching defeats to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo sports scene is often considered a land of disappointment and heartbreak. With this being the base, Murphy knows full well the impact the Bandits’ success has had on the hardy citizens of New York’s second largest metro area.

“It means a lot to our sports fans, to see a team win a championship, let alone back-to-back championships. There is a sense of pride that comes with it and it connects people. You may not be an avid lacrosse fan, but people come together in these moments to rally around one another, to feel a part of that excitement that comes with winning and celebrating. You are not just celebrating the sport, you are celebrating the city.”

What a magical time to be a Buffalo Bandits fans! Enjoy the ride Banditland! You are all in good hands.