Chris Hall
There's a huge presence missing from Washington Stealth lacrosse practices this month. Coach Chris Hall is taking on a new opponent; cancer. (National Lacrosse League)

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There's a huge presence missing from Washington Stealth lacrosse practices this month. Coach Chris Hall is taking on a new opponent: Cancer.

Hall broke the news about his illness during a conference call in September. Doug Locker, Stealth Vice President and General Manager, recalls the coach's words vividly.

"You hear the term cancer and it takes you back," Locker said. "Then through the course of that call, just hearing his voice, hearing his approach and how he would deal with it, I think it was somewhat of a reassurance for everybody."

The 59-year-old Hall felt an irritation in his throat, and doctors diagnosed a tumor on his tonsil. The cancer was caught early and is treatable. He's in the middle of six weeks of intensive chemotherapy and radiation.

Hall's longtime friend and assistant coach Art Webster is running the club as it prepares for the season opener in early January.

Coach Hall stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and is an intense, imposing figure during practice and games, according to Stealth defender Chris McElroy.

"He's a voice of reason, a guy to get you fired up when you need to," said McElroy. "He's also a guy you can share a laugh with. That gives him all the ingredients you need to be a winning coach."

Hall's illness certainly puts things into perspective for McElroy and the Stealth lacrosse family.

"Sports is one thing, and when you step away from it, your health is what matters most," said McElroy. "I was out there playing last weekend, and I took a moment to step back and think about being able to play a game I love, and be with such good people."

Hall did make an brief appearance during a training camp in Canada, and it certainly perked up spirits. Locker said it's difficult to keep coach from being coach.

"He's a stubborn guy. There are certain things he wants to do. In this case, he's also smart about [it]. I think he realizes where he needs to put his energy," said Locker.

Fans and opposing coaches from throughout the National Lacrosse League have phoned or e-mailed coach Hall their wishes for a speedy recovery.

The players haven't discussed any visible tribute for the man they affectionately call "C.H."

"Right now the focus is showing up for practice and trying to be the best lacrosse team we can be," said McElroy. "That's the best way to honor him and get ready for another successful season."

Follow Bill Swartz, 710 ESPN Seattle

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