BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — He grew up in Lancaster. He always pulled for the Buffalo Bandits as a kid. Now, Carter Stefaniak is a Bandit himself.
"That was always something in the back of my mind was playing pro lacrosse," Stefaniak said. "[The Bandits have] definitely had the most success, I would say, as a pro sports team in Buffalo."
With four NLL titles and ten divison championships to their name since 1992, there's no denying the history. Now, their best player during that span, John Tavares, is behind the bench.
"It’s definitely cool," Stefaniak said. "He’s had an amazing career and I’m sure as a coach he’s going to do an amazing job and continue to build on an already great playing career."
Even though Tavares has influenced countless young lacrosse players to pick up a stick, an even greater influence on Stefaniak was his older brother.
Cooper Stefaniak played lacrosse at Hobart and made it to Major League Lacrosse with the Rochester Rattlers.
"It was definitely great to see how he could do it, learn from him, and then try to make my way doing it while staying in Buffalo for my entire career."
And Carter has left his mark everywhere he's played: he lettered in lacrosse for all four years at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute. That culminated in 37 goals and 23 assists as a senior and team captain.
The goals continued to pile up when he played for the Golden Griffins, as well. In 52 career games, he tallied 75 goals, 20 assists, and 47 ground balls on the way to earning all-MAAC honors twice at midfield.
"Four years at school just go by so fast. And you don't really know it," Stefaniak said. "So you're sitting there and it's June, after you just graduated, and you're like "oh, well I'm pretty much done with lacrosse."
When he chose to forego the extra year of eligibility following the COVID-19 outbreak, he had no idea the NLL was an option. It was something he decided to do with his fellow seniors.
"We kind of collectively as a class said we weren't going back," Stefaniak said. "Once we found out that we had the eligibility, we were a little disappointed in what had happened."
And now, it's a complete reversal of emotions for Carter Stefaniak. He gets a chance to play for his hometown team at the highest level that box lacrosse has to offer.
"It's about getting back out there and never forgetting about the game that got you to where you are... So that's the most exciting thing for me is that I still have that opportunity to keep it going."
The NLL has not announced start dates for training camp or the start of their 2021 season.