NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – The National Lacrosse League’s Buffalo Bandits will be opening its training camp a week later than originally anticipated this November.
Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour had tentatively pencilled in Nov. 13 or 14 as the opening date, but these plans had to be altered because Kilgour will be inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Kilgour, 38, was an accomplished junior and senior lacrosse star in Ontario before he turned to coaching. He’ll enter the hall of fame in the player category.
Induction ceremonies are scheduled for Nov. 14 in Burnaby, British Columbia.
With Kilgour, a member of the Tuscarora First Nation, located near Niagara Falls, N.Y., being away the camp opening has been pushed back to Nov. 21.
Kilgour played for numerous championship squads during his career, but believes getting inducted
into the hall of fame signifies the pinnacle.
“I think that’s the highlight. What a tremendous honor.”
Kilgour will be one of 10 individuals inducted this year. The Burnaby Cablevision Junior A squad, which won three straight Canadian (Minto Cup) championships from 1977 – 79, is also being inducted in the team category.
Following November’s induction ceremony, Kilgour will be one of 450 individuals in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame; 12 teams have also been inducted.
Ironically, he’s never lived in Canada. Though he starred for various Ontario youth and men’s teams, he always lived on the other side of the border.
Kilgour began making his cross-border visits to play lacrosse at the age of 3. At the time, he was a member of a team in Niagara-on-the-Lake. His first team featured players ranging in age from 3 to 8.
“The first couple of years you just learned how to protect yourself (from the older players),” Kilgour said. “And then when you were like six, seven and eight you actually started to learn some lacrosse skills.”
He spent his youth career in the Niagara-on-the-Lake system. By his mid-teens he was a dominant player and made the jump to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Junior B club.
Kilgour could have played at an even higher level at the time – with a Junior A squad in St. Catharines – but he originally opted not to because Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines were always fierce rivals, and he wanted to play in the town where he had honed his skills.
After playing two seasons in the Junior B ranks, Kilgour moved to the St. Catharines Athletics, who competed at the Junior A level. Kilgour was a stellar performer with the Athletics.
During his three seasons with the club he amassed 350 points – 135 goals and 215 assists – in 60 games, and he helped the Athletics win the Minto Cup, annually awarded to the Canadian Junior A champs, twice.
Kilgour had even more success when he graduated to the Ontario Lacrosse Association’s Major (senior) league. In fact, he had an incredible run as a member of five straight national Mann Cup champions. For starters, he helped the Brampton Excelsiors win back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993. Then, along with several of his championship teammates from Brampton, Kilgour started suiting up in 1994 for the Six Nations Chiefs. The Chiefs then captured the cup three times, from 1994 to 1996.
Kilgour had a rather simple explanation for his good fortune, winning five straight national titles.
“I had a terrific amount of teammates and they all wanted what I wanted, and that was championships.”
During his first season with the Chiefs, Kilgour also won the Mike Kelly Award, presented each year to the most valuable player in the Mann Cup series. Besides playing in the OLA, which has a spring and summer schedule, Kilgour was also playing in the NLL, which primarily has a winter schedule, ending in early spring.
He spent eight of his nine years in the NLL with the Bandits. He also had stints with teams in Albany and Rochester. As a player, Kilgour helped the Bandits win NLL championships in 1992, 1993 and 1996. As a coach, Kilgour, who has coached the Buffalo club since 2003, has added another championship ring to his collection as the Bandits won the league crown in 2008.
Nagging hip injuries forced Kilgour to cut short his playing days much earlier than he would have liked. He last played in Ontario in 1998 and in the NLL in 2000. Kilgour eventually had a pair of hip replacements. His left was replaced at age 35, and the following year his right was replaced.
After his final year playing in the NLL, Kilgour found a head coaching job in the league, with the then-named Washington Power. He spent two years with the Power before becoming the head bench boss in Buffalo. And he has no desire to leave the coaching ranks any time soon.
“I’m going to keep on coaching until they tell me I can’t do it anymore.”
For Kilgour, the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame is not the first one he has been inducted into. A couple years ago he was inducted into the NLL’s Hall of Fame. Kilgour doesn’t hide which honor means more to him.
“It’s a tougher brand of lacrosse,” he said of the Canadian game. Kilgour added winning a best-of-seven Mann Cup series – playing as many as seven games in 10 days – is considerably more gruelling and gratifying than coming out on top in a one-game NLL championship final.