The Bridgeport Barrage were one of six original franchises in Major League Lacrosse, the outdoor lax circuit developed by Body By Jake huckster Jake Steinfield and Warrior Lacrosse founder Dave Morrow. The Barrage were owned and operated by the investor group behind the Bridgeport Bluefish independent baseball team and the $19 million Ballpark at Harbor Yard development, opened to great acclaim in 1998.
The Barrage played the role of league punching bag during their three seasons in Bridgeport, winning just 7 games against 33 losses from 2001 to 2003. The team never won more than three games in a season. After the 2003 campaign, the club relocated to suburban Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Barrage played five more seasons before folding in 2008.
The Hamilton Nationals were a short-lived and unloved franchise in Major League Lacrosse. The club originated as the Toronto Nationals (2009-2010), which was MLL’s first team in Canada. After two years of poor attendance in Toronto, the National relocated to Hamilton in February 2011, but fared no better there.
On the field, the situation was better. During their first season in Hamilton, the Nationals advanced to the Steinfeld Cup championship game, losing to the Boston Cannons 10-9. After missing the playoffs with a 4-10 season in 2012, the Nationals returned as semi-finalists in 2013, losing to the eventual champion Chesapeake Bayhawks. During the 2013 season, Hamilton’s Kevin Crowley won the MLL’s Most Valuable Player award.
Nationals owner Curt Styres grew up on and still lives in the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve in Southern Ontario. He made his fortune as a partner in the Grand River Enterprises cigarette conglomerate. Styres is also the owner of the Rochester Knighthawks of the indoor National Lacrosse League and the former owner of the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
The Nationals suffered from abysmal attendance throughout their three-year stay at Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University. In 2011, the Nationals average 1,214 fans for six home matches. The club’s published figures climbed slightly to 1,539 in 2012 and 1,837 in 2013, but a source close to the team told Fun While It Lasted that the Nationals sold fewer than 4,000 tickets for the entire 2013 season. (By contrast, the league’s flagship Denver Outlaws claimed a league record 31,109 fans for their July 4th home game alone in 2013).
On November 21, 2013, Major League Lacrosse announced that the Nationals were out of business. On the same day, the league introduced the Florida Launch as an expansion club to replace Hamilton on the 2014 schedule. The rights to the Nationals’ 23-man roster were assigned to the new Florida club.