The Nationals will call Hamilton their home for the 2011 Major League Lacrosse season. The former Toronto-based team will play at 6,000-seat Les Prince Field at Ron Joyce Stadium on the grounds of McMaster University. With the move to Hamilton, the ownership of the team has changed as well with Arrow Express Sports taking sole ownership of the new Hamilton Nationals franchise.
“HECFI is thrilled to be part of this venture with the new Hamilton Nationals lacrosse team. This partnership will allow us to continue to bring exciting sports and entertainment to the City of Hamilton,” said HECFI CEO Duncan Gillespie. “Lacrosse has a wonderful tradition in this region and we are excited to be part of this professional team coming to Hamilton.”
“We are pleased to have been able to work out a couple of key partnerships in the move from Toronto to Hamilton,” said newly named President Lewis Staats. “We are pleased that HECFI has agreed to partner with the Nationals to handle ticket sales, sponsorship sales and also be a key part of our marketing efforts as well. We are also pleased to have reached agreement with McMaster University to make the Les Prince Field at Ron Joyce Stadium the new home of the Hamilton Nationals MLL team. We are excited about the move from Toronto to Hamilton for the upcoming season. Hamilton is more centrally located and a much easier commute for many of our existing fans and hopefully new fans who live to the west of Toronto. Our entire management staff and coaching staff have many years of experience and all have been a part of championship lacrosse teams in the past. We look forward to the new season, the new partnerships, the new city and the new (and old) fans we hope to see when we play our home opener in May.”
The team also announced its executive team and coaching staff for the Major League Lacrosse franchise. Jody Gage will handle the duties as the general manager and Randy Chrysler will serve as the assistant general manager. Hamilton also named its coaching staff with the appointment of Regy Thorpe as the team’s head coach. Thorpe will work alongside assistant coaches Gary Gait and Jason Johnson.
The Nationals completed their second season in Toronto in 2010 after capturing the league championship in 2009. The Nats started play in the MLL on May 15, 2009, and defeated the Washington Bayhawks, 17-16. The Nationals qualified for the playoffs as the second seed with a 7-5 record and won their first championship, 10-9, over the Denver Outlaws.
“Hamilton is a city that takes pride in working hard,” said Gage, who played junior hockey in the Steel City in 1978. “I am excited to have the opportunity to build a team that the city can be proud of.”
Thorpe returns to the MLL for the first time since the 2008 season when he helped the Rochester Rattlers win the 2008 Steinfeld Cup. Thorpe spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Rattlers, which included a stint as a player/assistant coach during the 2006 season. He also played for Rochester for six seasons (2001-06). The job with the Nationals is his first professional head coaching job. The challenge is something he is looking forward to in 2011.
“It certainly is a good opportunity to get back into coaching in the MLL,” said Thorpe. “I look forward to the challenge of rebuilding a 3-9 team into a championship caliber team.”
Thorpe, 39, has an extensive playing and coaching background. Thorpe coached the Junior “A” Six Nations Arrows for three seasons. In his first season, the Arrows won the 2007 Minto Cup, which is the national junior championship in Canada. In 2009 he led the Arrows to the OLA Junior “A” Finals. He is currently in his second season as the Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Syracuse University, where he works under Gait. Gait and Thorpe will now walk the sidelines together in Hamilton.
The 43-year-old Gait has achieved unprecedented success as coach and a player. Gait enters his fourth season as the head coach of the Syracuse University women’s lacrosse team. In the past three seasons, he has led the Orange to a 47-15 record and two trips to the national semifinals (2008 and 2010).
“I am excited to be coaching on the men’s side again and being back in the MLL,” said Gait.
Gait is a 10-time NCAA champion, having won three titles as a player for the Orange (1988-90) and seven as an assistant women’s lacrosse coach at the University of Maryland (1995-01). The Victoria, BC, native has also won National Lacrosse League titles (1991, 1994-95), three Major League Lacrosse titles (2001-02, 2005), three Mann Cups (1991, 1997 and 1999), the Heritage Cup (2004) and the International Lacrosse Federation (ILF) World Championship (2006). In 2006, he was selected as one of five charter members of the NLL’s Hall of Fame.
Johnson, 38, enters his third season as an assistant coach with the Nationals and was on te 2009 staff that won the MLL Championship. Johnson is a product of Six Nations lacrosse, having spent time as a player and as a coach. He was the offensive coach for the Six Nations Arrows from 2004 to 2006 and helped the team win three consecutive Ontario Championships and advance to three Minto Cup Finals. He was also the offensive coach at the Indoor World Games for the silver medalists: the Iroquois Nationals. Additionally, he was the head coach for the Six Nations U-16 and U-19 men’s field teams. Further, he was the assistant coach for the Senior “A” Six Nations Chiefs (MSL) from 2008-09.