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Stories/Op-Ed

Stealth Honor Curtis Hodgson As Team’s First Jersey To Be Retired

For Stealth fans from Vancouver, Washington, San Jose and beyond, Saturday, February 10th, 2018 will go down as one of the most unforgettable days in franchise history. It will be the day that the most-experienced player to ever wear a Stealth uniform, Curtis Hodgson, who played in team-record 211 games, will become the first player in the organization’s 15-year existence to see his jersey lifted up to the rafters.

Followers of the NLL outside of the Stealth’s stratosphere may not recognize Hodgson’s name at first glance, for the right-hander was never an MVP winner/candidate or an all-star. In fact, the only individual award he won was the 2009 Transition Player of the Week award on the first week of February.

The reason he never achieved accolades such as those wasn’t that his play wasn’t good enough to stack up with the rest of the league. On the contrary, he was a respectable defender throughout his career. It was because he decided at a young age that he was going to play a game that emphasized the team, not himself.

He was the type of guy that had all the intangible traits front office staffs are always hoping to find. He was a good locker room guy; he gave 100% effort every game, he strived to do whatever he could to make his teammates better, and so much more.

Even though he would become a figure in this league that all young players should try and replicate both on and off the turf, Hodgson’s journey to the NLL was not a typical one. Believe it or not, lacrosse was not a passion of his when the Burnaby, British Columbia native first began to play the game.

“I got involved with lacrosse a little bit later because my friends, who had quit baseball, joined lacrosse,” Hodgson said. “So I followed them, kicking and screaming through practice because I wasn’t very good at it. Then as a player, once I got through a couple of practices, I said, ‘Hey, I really like this game.’ so I stuck with it.”

A few years later with the British Columbia Junior-A Lacrosse League (BCJALL) Burnaby Lakers, Hodgson was a central fixture on the team and featured in the champion series, the Minto Cup, twice, once in 2000 and then again in 2002.

“When I was a junior player with Burnaby, we had a really successful organization, and we were going to Minto Cups. And, guys older than me were starting to get drafted and play in the NLL and it became one of those things you saw as an opportunity.”

The determined defenseman was talented enough to take his game to the next level and found himself drafted by his hometown team, the Vancouver Ravens, who were becoming the first professional lacrosse team in the Metro Vancouver area. He was selected 43rd overall in the 4th round behind guys like Gavin Prout, Derek Suddons, and Brad Self.

“Luckily I was drafted,” Hodgson modestly stated. “Because my coach in junior’s [Paul Dal Monte] became the coach of the Ravens my first year in the league. That was my first connection with the league.”

Unfortunately for the Minto Cup champion, misfortune reared it’s ugly head and sidelined him a wrist injury before his rookie season. Hodgson would heal over time, and during his recovery would play for the Ravens practice squad, something he claims was, “The best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

“I played with a bunch of veteran players and guys that were older and wiser, and I learned a ton from them,” he said.

Even though Hodgson was headed on the right path to be successful in the NLL, the Ravens were not, and the organization would fold before the 2005 season. After he would have a strong summer playing in the Western Lacrosse Association, Hodgson would receive one of the most important phone calls of his career.

“I got a phone call from [San Jose Stealth Assistant GM] Doug Locker,” Hodgson remembers in vivid detail. “In October, he asked me if I would be interested to come to California to play lacrosse. So I went on a recruiting trip down there when I was 22. I was given a chance to play, and it was a no-brainer opportunity.”

After proving himself as a gameday roster player in training camp, it was finally time for his first NLL game. There were nearly four years between the time Hodgson was drafted and his first career game, but it didn’t take him very long to make an impact on the team.

“My first game was in Calgary,” he recalled. “The cool thing I remember is that on my first shift I scored a goal. There was a bit of personal satisfaction. I had been given this opportunity, and at that point, I just wanted to contribute in the lineup.”

Over the years, Hodgson would continue to grow as a player and as a leader. He credits the ability to play with guys like Cam Woods, the Captain of the Stealth for Hodgson’s first three years, and Darren Reisig who was a teammate of Saturday’s honoree both on the Vancouver Ravens practice roster and on the San Jose Stealth.

All of his hard work paid off when he was named Captain in 2015. What made that honor even more special was that the team had relocated from Washington to Vancouver, meaning that he was now the leader of his new hometown team.

“People had always had to travel to come watch me play and support me. To get that opportunity to play consistently in front of family and friends and to be embraced by the British Columbia lacrosse community was a special thing. People in B.C want pro lacrosse; it’s a big lacrosse market. To Captain, just from a longevity standpoint for me, and to be given that honor being from Vancouver was obviously very special.”

The team had its ups and downs during the years while Hodgson was leading the Stealth, but he did all he could to motivate his teammates and willed them to their first playoff appearance in Vancouver this past season.

All good things must come to an end, though, and this past offseason, when he was offered a job as a vice principal, Hodgson knew that this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“Essentially the truth of it is,” he professed. “I got to a point at my age [36] on a professional standpoint, becoming a vice principal, where I didn’t think I could put in the work that I knew was required to play well. I had to make a decision: Do I take this other job opportunity or do I continue to play at my age? Eventually, you get to a point with family and work that you can’t do what’s required to play at the level that you need to. I knew that I couldn’t put in the work needed to be a leader on this team, so I had to retire.”

Miraculously, over his 211 games across 13 years in the NLL, Hodgson was able to balance being a teacher, secondary school athletic director, lacrosse ambassador and community leader, yet only sat out for five games -four of those coming in his final season in 2017. Considering that his career began with an injury that kept him off the starting roster for a few years, it speaks volumes to his level of dedication and preparation to be ready to go every week and miss one game in before 2017.

“I think I learned from people above me and had great coaches,” the iron man said. “Especially [Stealth Head Coach from 2009-2014] Chris Hall who challenged me regarding the preparation required to give yourself the best chance to be ready as well as how to be a professional.”

While Hodgson will no longer be running up and down the turf in a Stealth uniform, he remains committed to continuing to grow the game of lacrosse within the Vancouver Stealth organization and in B.C. The former Captain will likely play a role in the Stealth’s player development division and will continue to be a part of the Stealth Lacrosse Academy.

“I think the thing I’m most happy about is the opportunity to be connected to the organization and help grow the game in some kind of capacity,” he explained. “The Stealth Academy has become a big project of mine, and it aligns with my job quite well. I have the opportunity to work with B.C. kids who are looking to become better lacrosse players.”

Hodgson has spent his adult life trying to make an impact on the Metro Vancouver community both in his day job and as a lacrosse player in the NLL. Knowing that so many fans will be there this Family Day weekend means a lot to him as a player and a member of this community.

“We wouldn’t have a league if we didn’t have fans,” he said. “I am very thankful and appreciative of the fans. I’ve had a unique opportunity to see people who have been fans of the organization since we were in San Jose and are still connected to the team and still show up to games; I think that is fantastic. It’s such a great league, and I think we can continue to grow the game because of the product the teams put on the floor. It has meant a lot to me that people have been willing to show up and willing to give, so I’m very appreciative of that.”

To the man who gave him this golden opportunity to play in this league, Hodgson didn’t hold anything back about how he feels about Doug Locker.

“It’s gone from a relationship where he gave a young kid a chance to play to now we’ve spent 15 years together. Doug is a consistently great person in my life and great connection. I have him to thank for a lot of my success and my connection with this organization. I can’t say enough good things about Doug.

The game and the league has made tremendous strides since Hodgson was initially drafted in 2001, but, 17 years later, he couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of the NLL.

“I think it’s a very bright future,” Hodgson said of the NLL. “I have been able to listen to [Commissioner] Nick [Sakiewicz] talk and hear his vision. I think he’s got a great vision for our league and the fact that the league is growing next year and that the digital platform is getting more and more fans involved. These are conversations that weren’t happening when I was in the league, so it’s nice to see the outlook shift to a growth mindset because it is such a fantastic product.”

The Stealth and the NLL have had the honor to watch Curtis Hodgson grow into his pivotal roles. He is a man with as much passion and dedication to this game as you will find. We can rest assured knowing that as long as Hodgson is influencing the bright young B.C. lacrosse stars, the Stealth organization and the NLL will have more role models like him in the future.

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