No team yet, no league yet, but they’re al­ready cheer­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor

So, are they the Red Patch Boys or more the Box J Boys?

“I’d say we’re a com­bi­na­tion of the two,” says James Hut­ton, the 25-year-old pres­i­dent of the Bar­ton Street Bat­tal­ion, a fan group ded­i­cated to the Hamil­ton soc­cer fran­chise in the pend­ing, but as yet unan­nounced, Cana­dian Premier League. “When I’m ex­plain­ing the Bat­tal­ion to a lot of Hamil­to­ni­ans, if they don’t un­der­stand what Toronto FC is and what the Red Patch Boys (the TFC’s team’s wildly ac­tive sup­porter group) are, we say ‘We’re es­sen­tially go­ing to be the Box J Boys of soc­cer.’ Which speaks to the pas­sion we’ve got and the pas­sion we’re go­ing to be bring­ing to games. On top of that, there’s a bit of a dif­fer­ent cul­ture to soc­cer. We’ll be hav­ing our flags, and our drums, our smoke and our con­fetti, all the things which make soc­cer a dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere.”

Sup­porter groups for pro sports fran­chises, like the Box J Boys, are com­mon and, like the Bat­tal­ion, are not of­fi­cially con­nected to the club. But Hut­ton thinks the Bar­ton Street Bat­tal­ion “is the first sup­port­ers group in the world to be formed be­fore the league ac­tu­ally ex­ists.”

Hut­ton and a few friends who fol­low TFC closely had read Spec­ta­tor sto­ries about the po­ten­tial new league and the Tiger-Cats’ heavy in­volve­ment in it. They were meet­ing in Hamil­ton pubs to watch Toronto FC away games, “when at a cer­tain point we said, ‘Would we sup­port a Hamil­ton team over Toronto?’ And the pretty much unan­i­mous an­swer was ‘yes.’ ”

So the first booster meet­ing took place last February at the An­chor Bar, with about a dozen sup­port­ers. Kevin Match­ett, the Ti­cats’ di­rec­tor of new sta­dium devel­op­ment, came along and re­mains the li­ai­son be­tween the Ti­cats and the Bat­tal­ion. “That gave us that val­i­da­tion, that push to go for­ward,” Hut­ton says. “As a group we talked a lot about what we wanted to be. We came up with the name, cre­ated a logo, cre­ated a web­site and got some press in­side the soc­cer world.”

The name com­bines an iden­ti­fi­able neigh­bour­hood ref­er­ence with the mil­i­tary feel of ‘Bat­tal­ion,’ sug­gest­ing band­ing to­gether for a com­mon, larger, pur­pose.

“Three words that sum us up, and maybe sum up Hamil­ton are, ‘Im­pa­tience, pas­sion and am­bi­tion,’” Hut­ton says.

“We’re su­per pas­sion­ate about soc­cer and about Hamil­ton,” Hut­ton added.

“We couldn’t wait for this to start, so we started a year early.”

Bat­tal­ion scarves are black and gold and fea­ture ‘The Am­bi­tious City’ on one side, and ‘Bar­ton St. Bat­tal­ion’ on the other. When Hut­ton got the first 50 scarves in June, he sold them out in four days, and about 160 have been sold since then.

Be­tween 20 and 30 fans meet semireg­u­larly, and on Satur­day at the Pheas­ant Plucker they’ll cel­e­brate Hamil­ton’s Melissa Tan­credi while watch­ing the broad­cast of the fi­nal match of her bril­liant ca­reer.

Prospec­tive Bat­tal­ion mem­bers are wel­come, and scarves (20 bucks per) will be on sale.

One of the Bat­tal­ion’s hottest top­ics of dis­cus­sion is the po­ten­tial nick­name for the Hamil­ton fran­chise. At least two, United and Steel­ers, have been reg­is­tered for patents.

Many of the group pre­fer the Steel­ers, the name of a pre­vi­ous pro team here, but Hut­ton’s view is that, “steel is a part of our his­tory and it’s part of what Hamil­ton rep­re­sents now but it’s a part that’s get­ting smaller. It has less ef­fect than it did in the ’80s, and I think it’ll have less ef­fect in 2020 and 2030.”

And what ef­fect will the Bar­ton Street Bat­tal­ion have?

“The Box J Boys have woven them­selves into the iden­tity of the Ti­cats. If you’re a CFL fan any­where in the coun­try, you know about the Box J Boys,” Hut­ton said.

“I think that’s an amaz­ing iden­tity to have for your pas­sion for your city, and your pas­sion for the team,” Hut­ton added.

“We don’t want to be a group that iden­ti­fies with the hooli­gan­ism in soc­cer, but I’m not claim­ing we’re go­ing to be choir boys.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

James Hut­ton, se­cond from right, pres­i­dent of the Bar­ton Street Bat­tal­ion, is joined by some of the heavy hit­ters in Hamil­ton soc­cer. From left: Kevin Match­ett, Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats; Paul Beirne, project man­ager Cana­dian Premier League; John McGrane, soc­cer businessman and Hall of Fame player; Nick Bon­tis, Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion di­rec­tor; Hut­ton; John Gib­son, Hamil­ton and Dis­trict Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent.

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