He may not have the documentation to prove who he is, but Regy Thorpe’s Native connections have paid off once again.
Thorpe, whose grandfather is believed to have been Mohawk, has been hired as the head coach of the Hamilton Nationals, a men’s professional field lacrosse team. For the Nationals, who spent the past two years playing out of Toronto, this will mark their first season in Hamilton.
The Nationals compete in the six-team Major League Lacrosse (MLL). The season runs from May through August.
Thorpe is well acquainted with Styres. That’s because Thorpe, a former Knighthawks’ star, also previously served as the team’s general manager. And he was also the coach of the Six Nations Arrows, a Junior A box lacrosse team that Styres has also overseen.
With the Nationals, Thorpe is pleased to be reunited with Styres.
“I think the organization and the coaches and the players are excited about the challenge,” he said. “There’s lots to improve on.”
The Nationals, the lone Canadian franchise in the MLL, suffered through a disappointing 3-9 record in 2010. The club failed to qualify for the playoffs. Prior to that, the organization had won back-to-back MLL championships. During its winning 2008 campaign the squad was called the Rochester Rattlers.
After capturing the league crown that year, the club relocated to Toronto where it also won the ’09 MLL crown. Thorpe’s ancestors, from his father’s side, were believed to have been Mohawks from Kemptville, Ontario. But he cannot provide any written proof of this as all records from the town hall were destroyed in a fire more than a century ago.
“Technically I don’t have the documentation to prove it,” Thorpe said, “but I’ve played a lot on the reservations. And I was very close to many of the guys. They’ve embraced me into their families. And I know I’m a big part of their extended families.”
Though he had hoped to suit up for the Iroquois Nationals men’s side several years ago, Thorpe was prevented from doing because of that lack of documentation. He’s currently the assistant coach with the Syracuse University women’s field lacrosse team. The club’s head coach is Gary Gait, who is considered one of the best lacrosse players in United States history.
The pair will also work in Hamilton together as Gait has agreed to become the Nationals’ assistant coach.
“He certainly brings a lot of knowledge to the game,” Thorpe said. “He’s won a lot of championships as a player and some people don’t know he’s also won a lot of championships as a coach.”
The Nationals have several talented American Indian players on their roster. And Thorpe does not believe this number will go up this year just because he’s now coaching the team or because Styres, a co-owner before, is now the club’s sole owner.
“We need a good core of Native Americans, Canadians and Americans,” Thorpe said. “We need to find that combination of good players.”
Besides the Nationals, this season the MLL will also feature the Boston Cannons, Denver Outlaws, Long Island Lizards, Chesapeake Bayhawks and the Rochester Rattlers. Rochester is back in the league because they’re the former Chicago Machine, who announced their relocation plans this past off-season.
The Nationals kick off their 12-game regular season schedule in Denver on May 14. Hamilton’s home opener is then set for May 19 versus the Bayhawks. The Nationals will play their home matches at Ron Joyce Stadium, located at McMaster University.