The city of Hamilton has a long history with professional soccer, but it’s been 10 years since Hamilton Thunder represented that city as a member of the Canadian Soccer League.
In earlier times, during the days of the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League (ECPSL) in the sixties, Hamilton Steelers was rated as one of the best teams in Canada. The team’s opening game in 1961 at home in the Civic Stadium (later named Ivor Wynne Stadium) was played against Toronto City, owned by grocery magnate Steve Stavro who signed a number of internationals from the UK, including Stanley Matthews, the only player to be knighted while still playing a career which included 73 caps for England.
Hamilton Steelers played in the ECPSL until 1964 when the name was changed to Hamilton Primos. The Primos’ goalkeeper was Dick Howard, who went on the represent Canada and some years later was a top soccer analyst covering the World Cup on Canadian television, a time when he was also appointed the only North American at that time to sit on FIFA’s technical committee. Hamilton Steelers re-surfaced in 1981, winning the National Soccer League championship in the team’s first year.
Hamilton was a site (with Buffalo and New York) for the World University Games in 1993, and the women’s soccer tournament played at Brian Timmis Stadium and McMaster University was considered at the time to be some of the finest women’s soccer in the world. The 2015 Pan American Games competition was staged in Hamilton.
The Hamilton Spectator newspaper has played an important part of the city’s soccer history with the Hamilton Spectator Cup for soccer supremacy, a trophy first introduced in 1896 and which today is still emblematic of the local championship.
London City of the Canadian Soccer League has relocated to Hamilton to bring the semi-pro level of the game back to Steeltown.
London City was one of the oldest pro teams in North America after being launched by Markus (Max) Gauss, a German immigrant from Stuttgart with a passion for soccer who arrived in Canada in 1958. The club was managed most of the time by his well-known son Harry Paul Gauss until Harry’s death on October 31, 2009 at the age of 57.
London City was sold in 2011 to a group headed by Hamilton businessperson Andrew Crowe, successful in environmental recycling, who then sold his share early 2015 to his partner, Zoran Kliseric.
Kathleen Nurse, general manager of London City In charge of the transfer of the CSL team to Hamilton under the new banner of Hamilton City, believes that as in the past pro soccer will thrive in Hamilton. “It’s a great soccer community that has been poorly served with the professional game in recent times and we look forward to bringing an attractive higher level soccer to the community,” said Nurse.
While the new team is expected to consist of some top players from the Hamilton region, there will be a few players retained from last year’s London City squad and some imports from Europe.
“The imports bring high level skills from Europe and that’s important both for competition in the tough CSL and for our contribution to youth player development in the Hamilton and district community – programs we intend to launch immediately following this upcoming inaugural year,” said Nurse.
The new Hamilton City is expected to be based in Stoney Creek to kickoff its 2016 CSL season late May.
Source: Stan Adamson, Canadian Soccer League