Washington Stealth star Jason Bloom is a rarity in pro lacrosse — he doesn't have to travel to home games
A trade from Boston to the new National Lacrosse League team in Everett meant that Jason Bloom wouldn't have to fly across the country for games from his Mercer Island home.
Special to The Seattle Times
EVERETT — Jason Bloom chose the road less traveled and it really has made all the difference.
Bloom, the captain of the Washington Stealth, grew up near Vancouver, B.C., where he followed a typical Canadian sports diet: ice hockey in the winter, lacrosse in the summer.
When it came time to decide which sport to pursue, Bloom took Robert Frost's advice and diverged from most of his friends and countrymen and chose lacrosse.
He played on scholarship at Ohio State and now, at 27, Bloom is among the world's elite lacrosse players and plays for one of the sport's best professional teams.
"I do wonder sometimes about hockey," Bloom admitted. "I played with a bunch of guys who are in the NHL now, but I've been blessed to be able to play lacrosse at the highest level."
The Stealth moved from San Jose, Calif., to Everett this season and quickly assembled a powerhouse team. The Stealth opened with six straight wins before dropping two and is on top of the West Division.
Stealth coach Chris Hall, who coached the Calgary Roughnecks to the National Lacrosse League title in 2004, knew he wanted Bloom as his team's leader.
With a master's degree in psychology — Bloom originally planned to pursue a doctorate and become a sports psychologist — he has credentials to lead the charge.
"I've watched Jason play for a long time and really liked what I saw — how he carried himself, his energy, how he played when things were going well and when his team was struggling," Hall said. "The real bonus for us was to find out what fine character he has. The qualities he displays on the floor is what he is and that's been great for this team."
Last season Bloom was playing in Boston and commuting to home games from his home in Mercer Island and his day job as a commercial real-estate broker for GVA Kidder Mathews in Bellevue.
When the San Jose franchise decided to relocate to Comcast Arena in Everett, Bloom was fortunate a trade to the Stealth was quickly worked out.
That means home games for Bloom are really home games, something unusual for professional lacrosse players.
The Stealth has only seven players who live in the Puget Sound area.
The others fly in the day before a game, have a quick practice that night and then play on the weekend. The average salary is around $20,000 a season, a nice part-time job but certainly far below the salaries of other top athletes.
"It's not enough to raise a family, but it certainly helps out," Bloom said. "Most of the guys treat it as a part-time job."
Besides playing the game, Bloom considers himself to be an ambassador of the sport, a fast-paced hybrid of hockey and basketball.
"You have the hitting and intensity of hockey and the athleticism of basketball," Bloom said. "It's the best of a bunch of different sports."
Last season Bloom shared his knowledge of the game by helping coach The Overlake School in Redmond to the state high-school lacrosse title.
"It was a fantastic experience," Bloom said. "That was a team already headed to the playoffs and they were going to win it with or without me, but I joke around that I got them over the goal line."
Bloom said the Puget Sound has become a hotbed for lacrosse with 49 high schools having varsity teams.
"I can't believe how many young kids I see carrying around sticks and balls," Bloom said. "It's the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. and has absolutely blown up in Washington."
That has meant a warm reception for the Stealth in Everett. After five home games, the Stealth's average attendance is 3,482.
Team president David Takata said he couldn't be happier with the move.
"The community has been great, from individuals coming to see a new sport to the great lacrosse community that's already here," Takata said. "Fans like the game and are getting hooked. It's really sweeping the Northwest."
Bloom, who lives with wife Lindsay and 8-month-old son Jackson, has one request.
"Give the game one chance, come to one game and see what you think," Bloom said. "People who do that come back."
Both Bloom and Hall think those who jump on the bandwagon could be in for a ride to a championship season.
"Yes, we have the talent to win it all," Hall said. "We have a group of amazing athletes, who truly are the best players in the world at this game."
Stealth forward Jeff Zywicki leads the National Lacrosse League in goals with 23 in eight games and Stealth teammate Lewis Ratcliff is tied for third with 18.
Bloom, who plays transition, knows his job is to make sure all the talent is pulling in the same direction.
"We're the deepest team in the league," Bloom said. "We have six or seven guys who have the skill to put up four or five goals in any game. Our defense is huge and athletic and our goaltenders are phenomenal. The main thing is that everyone has bought into their roles and we're playing for each other. All that matters is winning the title."
Players earn more money as the team advances in the single-elimination playoffs that begin after a 16-game regular season ends April 24.
The division semifinals are scheduled May 1-2, the finals May 7-8 and the championship weekend May 14-15.
"This is the best team I've played on," Bloom said. "Our goal was never to go undefeated in the regular season. We're trying to build for the playoffs and peak at the right time."
|National Lacrosse League|
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Washington at Boston, 4:30 p.m.
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Minnesota at Colorado, 6 p.m.
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