By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — When the Washington Stealth open the 2012 National Lacrosse League season Saturday night against Calgary, fans may notice a different face leading the team from behind the bench.
That man is assistant coach Art Webster. He’ll guide the Stealth in the absence of head coach Chris Hall, who is out indefinitely while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Hall.
Webster, a native of southern Ontario, is entering his eighth season as an assistant coach with the Stealth.
“Art Webster is a member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame,” Hall said. “Art Webster has been a phenomenal lacrosse player and he’s truly dedicated to the game of lacrosse. It’s his passion, as much as it is my passion.
“I have played with Art for many, many years, coached with him for many, many years and have the ultimate respect for him and his knowledge and his ability to lead the team in my absence. I think (the players) are in more than capable hands.”
Webster’s father introduced him to lacrosse when Webster was 5 years old. The game has been part of his life ever since.
“I fell in love with the game right from the get-go and still am passionately in love with it today,” Webster, 58, said.
Webster played at the junior and senior levels of Canadian lacrosse. He played 20 seasons with the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association. After Webster’s playing career ended — when he was nearly 50 — he took up coaching.
Webster served as an assistant coach with the Shamrocks for seven seasons before taking over as the team’s head coach in 2007. He remained in that position for two seasons. Webster followed that up by taking over as head coach of the Nanaimo Timbermen, a team he still coaches in the summer.
Webster joined the Stealth as an assistant coach in 2005 when the team was based in San Jose, Calif. He was hired to run the defense. He’s been with the Stealth ever since.
“Artie has been with us for seven years,” Stealth general manager Doug Locker said. “The guys know him well and know what his styles are and know what he likes and know what he dislikes.”
Hall, who took over as the Stealth’s head coach in 2009, has a long history with Webster, dating back to when they played together in Victoria in 1978.
In 1983, Hall decided that his playing days were over and went into coaching, becoming the head coach of the Shamrocks. Webster went from being a teammate to being one of Hall’s players.
“We have had a friendship since 1978 right up until this date today,” Webster said.
Webster said that he and Hall have always enjoyed a good rapport. Not having him on the sidelines at the start of the season will be difficult, Webster added.
“Being the situation that we are in now, I miss him dearly,” Webster said. “Because him and I bounce ideas off of each other 24-7. No matter where we are — in the hotel, in the lobby, in the airplane or in the car or the bus, we are going at it with lacrosse back and forth.”
Though Webster is leading the Stealth now, Hall remains very involved with the team.
“He has his stamp, hand, foot, feet, everything all over the top of everything that we are doing,” Webster said.
And as Webster tells it, his only responsibility while Hall is away is to win.
“If he is away for two games, I want us to be 2-0, and if he is away for four games, I want us to be 4-0,” Webster said. “He has set out the systems that he wants us to play and we are working on those.”
Webster has no doubt his friend will be back soon. Cancer, he said, picked the wrong guy, “because (Hall) is going to win this battle.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Read his live blogs at www.heraldnet.com/blog34, follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.