The Bandits won last night in Boston to clinch a playoff birth. That’s the lede for most Bandits fans, but as is usually the case, the real story is John Tavares.
Tavares scored six goals and notched three assists in the win, giving him a season-high nine point effort in a win his team sorely needed over a division rival. Tavares entered the game with 1,394 career points, which means he now has over 1,400 in his NLL career.
I think that most times just how good John Tavares is gets lost on people for a number of reasons. The lack of media attention and impact indoor lacrosse has on the national audience certainly diminishes the amount of people that know his story. Over the next few years he might not even be recognized by name, as his nephew of the same name is pegged as the first overall pick in this summer’s NHL Draft.
Still, John Tavares has had one of the more incredible careers in pro sports. He is far and away the NLL’s most beloved player, and the story of his schoolteacher by day, lacrosse superstar by night life is known throughout the sport. He also attended college locally, teaches just across the border in Canada, and has been an ambassador of the sport in Buffalo for well over a decade.
His list of achievements are as lengthy as they are relatively unknown. He is the first player in NLL history to tally over 500 goals and 500 assists, and leads the league in both goals and total points, besting Gary Gait in both categories. The gap between Tavares and the rest of the active players in these categories is massive, and these records will stand for years after he leaves lacrosse for good.
Still, to the ordinary observer it would appear that Tavares is the second best player on a very good team. Statisticly he has played second fiddle to Mark Steenhuis all year, but any lacrosse fan knows the dangerous ability that lies in Tavares’ game. Even after a lengthy career he remains one of the most dangerous players in the game 1 on 1, and downright deadly when alone on a goaltender.
To be brief, a player like Tavares is worthy of a praise he will never receive from most sports fans. His point totals will be registered as mere footnotes in newspapers, but are worth much, much more than that. A talent like his may not truly be recognized until it is gone, and that is a shame. Buffalo has the priveledge of watching one of the game’s greatest of all time, and no one outside of HSBC Arena seems to notice.