February 2, 2011

Nationals' Make Move to Hamilton Official, Name Thorpe and Gait to Coaching Staff

by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

The Toronto Nationals are officially moving to Hamilton, Ontario, and will play home games during the 2011 Major League Lacrosse season at the 6,000-seat Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University, the team announced Wednesday.

They will be known as the Hamilton Nationals, and the move completes a transition of sole ownership to former co-owner Curt Styres and Arrow Express Sports.

Details on the coaching staff and front office were also announced Wednesday. Regy Thorpe is the head coach, taking over for Dave Huntley, who resigned after the 2010 season. Gary Gait will be an assistant coach, along with Jason Johnson, the lone holdover from Huntley's staff.

As reported by LMO on Jan. 15, Styres' Arrow Express Sports assumes sole ownership of the Nationals with the move. Styres also owns the National Lacrosse League's Rochester Knighthawks and the American Hockey League's Rochester Americans.

Lewis Staats is the new team president. He negotiated the terms of the move to McMaster University and also a worked out a deal with a third-party client (HECFI) to handle ticket sales, sponsorship and marketing. Staats is also president of the Knighthawks and Americans and was asked by Styres to take the lead on the Toronto-to-Hamilton negotiations.

Jody Gage had earlier been named the Nationals' general manager. Randy Chrysler was announced Wednesday as assistant GM.

The home opener is scheduled for May 19 against the defending league champion Chesapeake Bayhawks. The Nationals will play six home games in Hamilton.

The Nationals finished 3-9 in 2010, their second season of existence and after winning the MLL title in 2009. The team selected Stony Brook midfielder Kevin Crowley, Lacrosse Magazine's preseason player of the year, with the top overall pick in the MLL draft Jan. 21., and will look to rebound under Thorpe.

Thorpe, 39, coached the Junior "A" Six Nations Arrows for three seasons. In his first season, the Arrows won the 2007 Minto Cup. In 2009 he led the Arrows to the OLA Junior "A" Finals. He played for and was an assistant coach with the Rochester Rattlers. He is currently in his second season as the assistant women's coach and recruiting coordinator at Syracuse, where he works under Gait, the head coach.

Gait, 43, and Thorpe will now walk the sidelines together. Gait is also a player for Styres' Knighthawks and begins his fourth spring as coach of the Syracuse women. He was a three-time MLL champion as a player.

"I am excited to be coaching on the men's side again and being back in the MLL," Gait said in a release.

Hamilton is about an hour drive southwest of Toronto. Staats said a move there makes sense in part because there is less traffic in the area, which will hopefully encourage more people to attend games.

"My position, being involved in business in southern Ontario, is that a lot of the decision making-process about whether people go and watch a sports event is dictated a lot by traffic," Staats said in January.

The Nationals played last season at Toronto's Lamport Stadium, a 9,600-seat venue, and had its inaugural season at BMO Field, a 20,000-seat stadium that is also home to MLS's Toronto FC.
The team averaged 3,846 fans per game in 2009 at BMO Field and averaged 3,079 last season at Lamport, finishing fifth in league attendance each year.


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