Hai Lam, the team captain and accomplished player for the North American League of Legends eSports team Cloud9, has been pushed into retirement due to a longstanding wrist injury. While Hai said that he'll stay on in C9 as its "Chief Gaming Officer", his departure comes at a critical time for his beleaguered team.
Just last Sunday, Cloud9 lost to competitor Team SoloMid (TSM) in the North American League Champion Series (LCS) Spring season finals. This meant that C9 would have to come back from a second-best position in the upcoming season if they still wanted to secure a spot for themselves in the World Championship — the biggest competitive event in League (and eSports, really) each year, which takes place later this year.
Despite having the longest-running single five-man roster in League's history as a professional eSport, C9 — and Hai specifically — had started to come under fire for what some fans saw as his lagging performance amidst ongoing problems.
In C9's announcement this week, Hai said that he'd decided to retire from playing due to his wrist injury and the current team environment and morale, which he described as at "an all-time low". From his statement:
I'm deciding to step down due to the following issues:
- My wrist injury is something that I simply cannot ignore. It limits my ability to play as much as I need to and my ability to improve. I cannot keep up with the amount of Solo Queue games my teammates play and it's not fair to them. At best, my wrist injury would have only allowed me to play for another split and that wasn't even certain.
- Team environment/morale was at an all-time low since Worlds 2014. We didn't have the most spectacular 2014 Summer Split and our run at Worlds was not the best we could've done. We tried very hard to figure out how to get back into shape for winning Worlds but we struggled and the team atmosphere started to decline. Winning IEM San Jose brought back a bit of that Cloud9 feeling that we know and love, but it left as quickly as it came.
- I want to make this clear to everyone. I am NOT stepping down due to community criticism for my play or myself. I would be lying if I said I didn't care about it, but I was able to brush it off thanks to my teammates' confidence in me. Over time, my teammates started to lose confidence in my abilities as a player and a shotcaller. That's what really hit me hard. I don't think that is an obstacle I was able to overcome and it really got to me. I've always played the role of a Support Carry from the very beginning and with the meta changing the way I think it is, my play style was not going to work anymore.
- I'm hoping with the addition of a new Mid Laner (which we will announce soon), the issues that we were going through will resolve themselves through hard work and the team can experience a new beginning. Will all the problems be solved? I'm not sure, but if there were ever a time to try it, it would be now. I'm confident they will be able to improve and take back the title of Best in NA and make a presence on the international stage. I hope all of you will continue to cheer for Cloud9 as I know I will.
As far as for what I want to do following my retirement, I'm focused on my new role as the Chief Gaming Officer (CGO) of Cloud9. My duties will focus on acquiring new talent and teams across all relevant games, helping bring in new partners and maintaining our partner relationships. I'll also be mentoring players in growing their brand, making the most of their time here, and doing everything in my power to expand Cloud9 into a household name as eSports continues to grow.
With Hai gone, The Daily Dot reports that there are two top candidates to replace him: European player Nicolaj "Incarnati0n" Jensen and David "Yusui" Bloomquist, who's already a sub for C9. Both of these players were previously banned from professional play due to their personal behaviour — Incarnation being the first player to have a permanent ban lifted by League developer and publisher Riot.