By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — In the three seasons the Washington Stealth have played in Everett, only one player has represented the team as its captain.
Defenseman Jason Bloom.
After six seasons in the National Lacrosse League, Bloom announced his retirement on Tuesday. He will stay with the team in a new role as an assistant coach.
“The National Lacrosse League is the pinnacle of the lacrosse world and I am so proud and thankful that I have been able to be a part of it,” Bloom said in a team-issued press release. “I’ve made so many lifelong friends through lacrosse. The game has given so much to me and I am forever in its debt.”
With the responsibilities Bloom has outside of lacrosse growing, he said he didn’t feel like he was able to give the effort to train and prepare the way he once did.
“I’ve kind of been wavering on it for a couple of months now,” Bloom said. “I’ve been really busy with work and I have a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision, but one that I feel is best for me and the team.”
When the Stealth relocated from San Jose to Everett prior to the 2010 season, they made a trade with the Boston Blazers to acquire Bloom, who was living in Mercer Island at the time. It couldn’t have worked out better for the veteran defenseman, getting to play closer to home and earning the captain’s “C” shortly after being acquired.
The Stealth defeated the Toronto Rock to win the 2010 NLL championship and returned to the title game in 2011, this time losing to the Rock. Winning the championship in the Stealth’s inaugural season in Everett was one of the highlights of Bloom’s career.
“Being a part of the 2010 team that won the Cup was an experience I will never forget,” he said. “It was a special group of guys on and off the floor and doing it so close to where I’ve made my home was incredible.”
A mentality typical of a captain, Bloom never cared about individual accolades, just winning.
“You play to win,” he said. “My only goal going into each season is nothing personal. The only thing I care about is winning. I love winning and I hate losing. I’m not sure which outweighs the other. … You get a taste of winning and you want more of it.”
However, fortunes changed for the Stealth in 2012. As head coach Chris Hall missed much of the season as he battled cancer, the Stealth stumbled out of the gates and struggled to the NLL’s worst record at 4-12.
The losing was tough on Bloom, who at the same time was getting up at 4 a.m. to train each morning. After the season was over, he started to weigh his options and came to his decision.
“Realistically, it is devastating,” he said of making the decision to retire. “I’ve had a pit in my stomach for some time now. You have been playing a game since you were four or five years old. For me to demand 100 percent from my guys when I’m not sure if I can give 100 percent. … It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
As far as a comeback, Bloom all but ruled it out.
“I would hope it’s permanent,” he said. “I don’t want to Brett Favre-it. But selfishly I would love to suit up for one more game. But I think it’s permanent.”
For players in the NLL, the reality is the great majority have jobs outside of playing the sport to survive and for those, like Bloom who have families, to support them. Like many of those players, Bloom would like to see the day when the players in the league can support themselves within the sport.
“I would certainly love that,” he said. “The reality is we aren’t there yet, but we can get there.”
In three seasons with the Stealth, Bloom played in 51 of a possible 54 games. He had 27 points (4 goals, 23 assists) and collected 215 loose balls. In his role as captain, he not only led the Stealth on the floor, but also in the team’s effort to grow the sport off the floor.
“We are very appreciative of the efforts Jason has made on behalf of the Washington Stealth and thankful for the hard work, dedication and passion that he has shown both on and off the floor for the past three seasons,” Stealth general manager Doug Locker said. “He has poured his heart and soul into the Washington Stealth and the growth of lacrosse in our area. His efforts have been an inspiration to all of us. Words cannot effectively reflect the thanks of our entire organization to Jason for all that he has done representing our team. He’s a talented player, great leader, superb role model and a trusted friend of all of us.”
Though Bloom’s playing days might be done, he will remain on the sidelines next to Hall trying to help the Stealth get back to the Champion’s Cup.
“It’s an incredibly difficult decision for any professional athlete to ‘hang ‘em up’ especially when you still have the physical and mental capacity to continue playing,” Hall said. “I sympathize with Jason in coming to terms with the realization that he will no longer be suiting up to play this game he has been so passionate about since he first picked up a lacrosse stick as a young boy.”
Like Hall, Bloom’s teammates supported his decision as well.
“I had a lot of good conversations, a lot of really good calls and emails from the guys,” he said. “I feel humbled to be a part of the league for as long as I have. I will miss dearly suiting up with them and battling in the trenches.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.