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Broker, new dad leads new pro lacrosse team
Ensconced on the 24th floor in a downtown Bellevue office building, Jason Bloom chats with colleagues from GVA Kidder Mathews, a world away from his other job as a professional lacrosse player. The Vancouver, B.C. native moved back to the Northwest from Florida to be closer to family, and in many ways found more than a new job and city, but a sense of community that has long accompanied one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.
As a member of the Washington Stealth, the area’s professional National Lacrosse League (NLL) team, Bloom also is able to take a break from earning quite as many frequent flier miles as in the past couple of years. After graduating from Ohio State and moving to Florida to pursue a graduate degree in psychology Bloom played for NLL teams in Denver and Boston, necessitating flying across the country most weekends for practice and games. This summer that all changed when Bloom was traded to the Stealth, taking his commute from thousands of miles to just 30 miles.
“I ended up getting extremely lucky and got a job out here,” said Bloom. “I was still playing in Boston last year, but got traded from Boston to the Everett team that just relocated from San Jose, so things kind of fell into place and it worked out perfectly. It’s going to be great this year to be able to practice and play in the same city I live in without having to fly across the state or the country to practice.”
One thing Bloom has found in the last four seasons playing professional lacrosse is the sense of community established through the game.
“Lacrosse is a blue collar sport, we’re very accessible to the fans,” he said, describing one of the major differences between lacrosse and other sports at this level. “It’s great being able to play against guys and then being able to go have a couple beers, not only with the other team after a game, but fans too. Denver’s really big on that. After a game we all go somewhere and the fans are invited too. They are interacting with the players they just watched and I think that’s a great part of the sport. It certainly appeals to a lot of fans out there.”
While encouraging this type of continued interaction between the teams, players and fans Bloom said the league is also great about getting players where they want to be, to teams close to their hometowns.
“The league’s pretty good about keeping western players on western teams, but there’s always going to be a needle in the haystack on every team,” said Bloom. For years that was Bloom, flying in and out, but now he calls practicing with his team locally a luxury.
Last weekend the Stealth hosted their second training camp of the season, narrowing the roster and letting the players get to know each other’s playing styles.
“It’s a whirlwind,” said Bloom. “Every training camps that way. You essentially have a month to get to know your teammates. There are 40 guys in camp, 20 make the team and 16 play, so you trim really quickly. Learning the tendencies of your teammates is just one of the challenges for any of the teams in this league. It was a good camp a couple of weeks ago, we look like we have a really strong team, a little bit younger, but a lot of guys are pretty excited.”
Going along with the accessibility in the sport is the fact that many of the players want to give back to the sport, in whatever way they can.
“Guys want to give back to the game,” said Bloom, who has helped coached during his downtime at the Overlake School. “Guys are coaching all throughout the ranks.”
This is part of the reason, Bloom said, he believes the sport has grown so much, especially in Washington and on the West Coast. Once known as an East Coast sport, lacrosse has exploded onto the scene with local high schools building impressive programs that dominate in state and inter-state competitions.
“I remember coming down in high school and just playing pick up games against some of the high schools here and our teams would just absolutely annihilate the teams down here,” said Bloom. “I remember my first weekend living here, my wife and I were driving around the Island and we saw lights on at the high school. It was a state team from Oregon playing Mercer Island and it was a phenomenal lacrosse game. Ten years ago that was the last thing we ever thought. There’s just a ton of interest and I think the coaches have done a great job in giving back to the game and expanding that lacrosse IQ.”
Bloom said he has not thought much about specifically coaching a team locally, but that he plans on teaching some individual or private lessons on the Island and in Bellevue when possible.
“My goal more than anything is just to spread lacrosse and if I can give back, whether it’s through individual lessons or through coaching actual teams I’m all for it,” he said.
Growing up in Canada Bloom said lacrosse was just a part of life. He started playing around the age of 4, but also found time to play hockey as well.
“I think it’s pretty much the Canadian thing to do. Hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer.” Despite the background of hitting the ice Bloom said there is not much of a hockey influence in his lacrosse game, except maybe preferring indoor lacrosse to field games.
“Typically there are more goals, it’s a rougher game and it’s a faster paced game. There’s no downtime and guys are waiting for plays. It’s a phenomenal environment to play in,” he said. “You’re playing in a confined area where you can’t run and hide. Your nose is going to get dirty.”
The Stealth’s first game for the 2010 season will be on Jan. 9 at Comcast Arena in Everett when Bloom and his teammates take on the Colorado Mammoth, Bloom’s first NLL team.
“Just the interest that we’ve received already in Washington with the team has been outstanding,” he said.
For more information on Bloom, the Stealth and the game of lacrosse visit www.stealthlax.com.