Hall of Fame Inductee: Jay Jalbert
By Kyle Devitte | Feb 15, 2022
One of the things that great players all share is how easy they make the game look. For every incredible move a player pulls off on a field, either in front of a crowd or on video for posterity, another dream is born. A rampaging storm of feet down a flight of stairs and into a silent backyard. Trying to replicate a move that looked so simple but required so much speed and power that it was impossible to pull off alone, much less on a lacrosse field in front of a crowd.
Lithe and powerful, Jay Jalbert was a melatonin-induced nightmare in the middle of the field during his time in Major League Lacrosse. He was the guy LSM’s dreaded covering and SSDM’s just flat out quit the game because of. It wasn’t so much that he would toy with you, but you’d feel that way after a quarter or two of him smashing into you on every ground ball. There were games where Jalbert was all but literally everywhere on the field.
Jalbert’s statistics as a pro are, in layman’s terms, demented.
He played in 62 games, scored 198 points, and collected well over 300 groundballs. He might have even had 400, but the MLL stat magicians at the time were reverse-searing the books, so no one knows what the totals were for that particular statistic. What we do know is that Jalbert was a demon on the wing that tormented endless shorties and poles alike.
His best season came in 2004 when he racked up 37 points (Jalbert never scored less than 20 goals in a full season) with 23 goals, 4 two-pointers, and 10 assists. He also snatched 78 ground balls and 15.5 penalty minutes; the man was also known for his multifarious mayhem off the ball. For good measure, he took one faceoff and won one faceoff. If you’re into that sort of thing.
In 2003, he won his first and only championship with the Lizards. The early teams in the MLL don’t get as much respect as the ones assembled later on because the league was really top-heavy with offensive talent. But that wasn’t what won championships back then and it’s not what wins them now. Consistency is the true indicator of greatness and Jalbert was nothing if not consistent.
Two-way midfielders are at an all-time premium now that the shot clock has trickled down into the college ranks. If you were wondering if players from Jalbert’s generation could hang with the superior athletes that populate current PLL rosters, the answer is, “Yes…but only some of them.” Jalbert would be one of the first players in those ranks to be chosen.
If you were looking for a player that compared to his particular style, you’d have to mush several modern players together to get the total package of what Jalbert offered as a member of the New Jersey Pride, the Long Island/New York Lizards.
Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball. A slasher with range that could get up and down the field, the easiest comp is peak Jake Froccaro. But Jalbert was a bit more versatile on the wings and ate buckets of loose groundballs in between quarters. So, mash up Froccaro with the viciousness of Zach Currier and you’re right in the sweet spot that Jalbert operated in.
Defensively, Jalbert could be deployed as a lockdown SSDM to even the speediest of dodgers. He had truly obscene lateral quickness and a tendency to instigate contact that produced violent results. Not as bellicose as Kevin Unterstein, or as physically dominant as Zach Goodrich, but just one notch below each in those categories. Jalbert was more marauder than man.
Concussions and other injuries from indoor lacrosse robbed us of more pro seasons from Jalbert. He left the game and built an entire business in the world of filmmaking and snow sports and he didn’t look back. At least, not in the way that other legends have popped their head back into the door to say “Hi.” To be fair, Jalbert was never one for cameos, despite playing in just one game in his final season, he was a consistent presence in every other season from 2001 to 2005. That’s not a long stretch, but it’s enough to be the best of the best in that time period.
That attitude and that effort are what made him stand out as one of the founders of the pro-style of play in a position that died and resurrected itself in the modern incarnation of the game.
Time has taken away the resonance that Jalbert’s name deserves in the lacrosse community. Hopefully, this recognition restores just a modicum of that reverence back. The king of both sides of the midfield stripe deserves to be celebrated now in the era of social media far more than anyone could ever understand.
Congratulations to the greatest and most versatile midfielder in the pro game on his enshrinement into the Pro Lacrosse Hall of Fame.