The Canadian Premier League kicked off its debut season in 2019. Seven clubs from across the vast country competed against each other, home and away, travelling hundreds and thousands of miles in some cases. The journey has been worth it though as the league has been a roaring success.
For one club in particular success has been the story of the season: the first ever champions of Canada, Forge FC. They beat Cavalry FC of Calgary, Alberta across two legs with a 2-0 aggregate score, and can carry the claim of inaugural champions forever. But what else do we know about them?
Hamilton, Ontario is where Forge hail from. Not far from Hamilton Harbour, Tim Horton’s Field is a purpose-built stadium constructed as a home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL and the official soccer venue for the Pan Am Games in 2015. Before that event, however, football was played on the site for decades before.
The Hamilton Steelers were the occupants when they played in the short-lived Eastern Canada Soccer League in the 1960s. In the late 80s, an attempt was made to create a new league called the Canadian Soccer League off the back of Canada’s participation in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Once again the location provided a team and the Steelers were reborn.
The league failed to really get off the ground though and after five years it ceased to be. The new Premier League looks a lot more promising, and this time Hamilton will be hoping their local team are here to stay. What better way to start than winning the maiden season?
Tim Horton’s Field offers an experience, rather than just a simple match day. Their website suggests, “Attending a match is WAY more than just free kicks and throw ins. Your game ticket grants you access to these social spaces and memorable experiences, fun for all the family.”
It boasts some impressive amenities too, such as Canada’s largest outdoor, high-definition video board as well as the country’s largest outdoor bar – The Stipley. They pride themselves on an inclusive and exciting day out with a family playground, several bars and restaurants as well as VIP hospitality. The stadium embraces the progress of the city and vice versa. “Our City. Your Club. Forge FC.”
Hamilton has roots built around the steel industry, and it embraces that history as much as it strives for a bigger and better future: a progressive city that claims an ambitious and creative attitude just like its founder. George Hamilton was dedicated to the advancement of the area and those core values continue, strengthen and permeate all Hamiltonians to this day, and surely beyond.
The name Forge is both representative of the city forging forwards through grit and determination, and respectful of the literal forges in their manufacturing heritage. The club also pay homage to their other sports teams, both past and present, offering up for all to see their unity and passion for their city.
As such, the club’s main colours are “spark orange”, “platinum steel” and “waterfall white”, but their third strip and a commemorative attire were coloured in black and gold to remember the city’s birthday, along with the traditional colours of the Tiger-Cats, in addition to the now defunct Tigers, formerly of the National Hockey League, and the Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
Above all else, Forge and Hamilton exude unity and a hardworking ambitious mentality. The club’s website again sums up their principles – “We’re from the Hammer…” and “Together, Hamiltonians Forge Ahead.”
The true heartbeat of Forge are the fans, and what better group than the Barton St. Battalion? They are an independent, not-for-profit supporters group created in 2016, the first of its kind in Canada for the Premier League. I reached out to them for a taste of their experience at Tim Horton’s Field and spoke with Allan Gorman. Over the course of an exciting and successful season for Forge, Allan recalled a couple of his memories that perfectly bookended the campaign.
First, the season opener. “The first moment when the players walked out was a special one,” he told Heart of Football. “Something we had been waiting for since 2016. It was the moment it all felt real. There were just over 17,000 there to witness the first ever Canadian Premier League game.”
What an occasion that must have been. The battalion displayed a tifo that covered their section of the stadium and the passion was there for all to see, much like the rest of the season. “The battalion sing for 90 minutes, non-stop. We have drums going constantly. The atmosphere is fantastic.”
What an effect that must have on their players, seeing that support; hearing that noise; feeling that drive. Then by the end of the season, that encouragement and commitment to the cause, solidly behind the on-field efforts of the players, saw Forge lift the North Star Shield. Allan described the heroes’ return: “The night the players landed we were waiting for them off the bus with smoke and fireworks. Tim Horton’s Field held a massive ceremony a few nights after the win.”
The Battalion is growing too. At 600+ members with an age range of four to 67, both male and female, the group is going from strength to strength. “It’s been a great turnout for the group. The team is finding new markets to reach and hopefully more fans flock.
“We have tried very hard to be active in the community with different charity drives. I mean we sing and drink beer for 90 minutes but we try hard to go beyond what is expected of us.”
Allan wasn’t kidding. The Battalion held a charity tournament for a local women’s abuse shelter, raising $1,500, and when they played C.D. Olimpia of Honduras in the CONCACAF Champions League last summer, a contest they ultimately lost 4-2 on aggregate, they raised money for orphans in Honduras.
It’s clear to see how much they care, not only for their own club and their own city, but the world as a whole. Football and passion go hand in hand, and their pride and compassion to the sport and fans worldwide is at the absolute epicentre of their objectives. They are 100% committed to participating in their community for the betterment of Hamilton and the progression of soccer in the city, along with Canada as a whole.
It seems that Forge FC are worthy champions and their legacy has already begun both on the field and off it. Can they reach the heights of admiration and achievement that the Tiger-Cats have? Time will tell but Hamilton can already be proud of their soccer club.
Nobody can ever take away the crown of first ever Canada Premier League champions. Forge FC are a force to be reckoned with. The golden patch of the champions emblazoned on their sleeve for the coming season, they will continue to forge ahead in their quest for glory.