By Tim Schmitt
SANBORN — There is no Brett Favre-like drama stirring inside Rich Kilgour. No wondering if he can squeeze one more season out of his 40-year-old frame. No yearning for a last chance to play professional sports in front of a packed venue.
As he prepares for a weeknight practice with the Niagara County Community College men’s lacrosse team he’s set to unveil this spring, Kilgour seems at peace with where he is, even if his haunt is nowhere near the accommodations he got used to playing for the Buffalo Bandits.
Now, Kilgour suits up in a small locker room at NCCC, a ripped couch the only place to relax in a tiny dressing room.
But it hardly seems to bother the former Niagara-Wheatfield star, who finds out today if he’ll be among the National Lacrosse League’s 2010 Hall of Fame class.
“The last two years I dealt with it in my head, but I played until I was 40,” said Kilgour, who played for his brother Darris the last seven seasons in Buffalo. “Darris had to hang it up at 30 because of a bad hip. Troy Cordingly, a great player, had to at 34 or 35 because of his ankle. But I can honestly say I got every possible game out of my career that I could. And maybe a couple extra.”
Now, he’s gearing up for the inaugural season with NCCC, where he was named the program’s first coach.
“You play 18 years, you know the end is coming. I got everything I could out of it, now it’s time to move on,” Kilgour said. “This is a great opportunity here at NCCC and I want to make the most of this, too. Half of being good at anything is preparation and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Although he calls himself a defender, Kilgour finished his 18-year career with 317 career points, including 94 goals. He took big faceoffs, and was on the floor at crucial times, wearing the captain’s C for the final dozen seasons.
His longtime teammate, John Tavares, said Kilgour was much more than a secondary piece of the team’s success.
“To stick around for 20 years, you have to be a great player,” Tavares said of Kilgour. “He’s definitely selling himself short. When we started in 1992, guys were just trying to find their roles on the team. Richie was one of the top scorers. We had a lot of offensive-minded players, but he’s such a team player, he took a different role. That’s why he lasted so long in the league.”
Kilgour said he was surprised to be nominated for the honor, and the announcement will come this afternoon. Also on the list of nominees is Cordingly, who had 312 points in nine seasons.
And now he’s an avid follower of the team he long played for — Kilgour now has Bandits season tickets — who gets to enjoy watching as much as once enjoyed playing.
“On Saturdays for 18 years, my routine was the same from January to April — shootaround, lunch, nap. The first time, I had no idea what to do with myself,” he said. “But it’s been great. I can watch, have a drink and sing ‘Sweet Caroline.’ I’ve really had fun with it.”
And whether he gets selected for the Hall or not — if so, he’d follow his brother who was in the 2007 class — Kilgour still seems to simply marvel at the experience he had.
“I was just hoping we might do this for a couple years until it wore off,” he said. “I’ve seen it up, I’ve seen it down and I’ve seen it back up.
“But I’m still amazed by all of it.”
Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.
RICH’S TOP THREE
Former N-W and Bandits star Rich Kilgour gives us his three fondest memories with the Bandits.
• 1993 CHAMPIONSHIP: “I’d missed out on the first championship when I tore up my knee the first year. Then, I had two goals and Darris scored the winner. It’s in front of probably every friend and family member. It couldn’t have been any sweeter.”
• 2008 CHAMPIONSHIP: “It had been a while since we won and to do it at home. We held on at the end and Mikey Thompson made some huge saves. That game I was captain so I was the first one to get the Cup and it’s a great feeling.”
• BOSTON MELEE: “Our winning streak had ended and we got into it with Boston. It just showed how much that team hated to lose. It was a rougher league back then. And I think that cemented us a team that might not beat you, but we’d try to beat you up. Buffalo loves that attitude.”