Could the Edmonton Elks be the CFL team for you? We recently ran an article giving you some pointers as to which CFL team you might want to support. It was about making the right choice for you.
That was a brief introduction to each team. Following on from that I thought it might be fun to look at each of the nine teams in a little more depth. Especially because, in that article we noted, “You need to find an affinity. Feel a connection. Have something that makes them, however they perform, very much your team.”
We started with a look at the the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa REDBLACKS, Saskatchewan Roughriders, BC Lions and latterly Montreal Alouettes. This time we are headed into the West Division to take a look at the Edmonton Elks to see if there is something there that will make a connection for you to want to support them.
The Elks have played at Commonwealth Stadium since 1978. Being able to seat 56,302 people it has the largest capacity of any current CFL stadium.
Originally, as the Eskimos, Edmonton had made Clarke Stadium their home. It held around 20,000 and was much more basic than a modern football stadium.
Commonwealth Stadium was built on a site next to Clarke Stadium and hosted the 1978 Commonwealth Games. The Edmonton Eskimos/Football Team/Elks have been the primary tenants ever since.
The stadium has gone on to host the 2001 World Athletics Championships, 5 Grey cup games, concerts, international football (soccer) matches and more. A series of works have been undertaken, including renovations in 2001 & 2008.
Edmonton set a home single game attendance record of 62,517 in 2009 and a season average high of 57,899 in 1982. Last time out (2019) they were averaging 29,341 fans to a home game.
The Edmonton Elks still call Commonwealth home and it is where they both train and play.
What’s in a name for the Edmonton Elks?
Prior to the arrival of the current franchise, Edmonton had a history of football (initially rugby football) teams dating back to 1895. In 1908 the Edmonton team became known as the Edmonton Esquimaux, which by 1910 transformed into the Edmonton Eskimos. That team were know as the Edmonton Elks for one season (1922) before reverting to Eskimos. They folded after the 1929 season.
Other teams came and went, but the Edmonton Eskimos name returned in 1938 to the WIFU. The current incarnation of the team began in the 1949 WIFU season, also as the Edmonton Eskimos. A name they would retain until 2020 when they officially retired the Eskimos name and started using “Edmonton Football Team” and “EE Football Team” as placeholders until a full time name was decided.
It was last summer then that Edmonton decided to move away from their traditional Eskimos name. Much as with the Washington Football Team in the NFL, societal pressure was building for a name change. But the process was expedited by major sponsors threatening to walk away.
Earlier this year they announced the new Elks name. The team made the announcement whilst revealing their new logo and helmet design. Judging by merchandise sales, the new name has been generally well received. Some were always going to oppose any new name, but for the marketing department the reaction to this new identity can be considered a success.
Edmonton Elks – a history of success
Edmonton can point to periods of sustained success throughout their history. This is reflected in their all time 685-495-18 record. Coupled with 23 Grey Cup appearances and 14 title wins.
After going 4-10 in their inaugural season they gradually improved. After going 19-25 over their first three seasons, the Eskimos exploded. From 1952-1957 they recorded a 71-24-1 regular season run, won 5 division titles, appeared in 4 Grey Cup games, and won three in a row from 1954-1956.
After appearing in, but losing the 1960 Grey Cup, Edmonton had their leanest years. Their longest title drought ran from 1958-1974 when they were kept from winning the Grey Cup game over a run of 17 years. Even then, this was a span that saw them go 142-137-9 and make 12 playoff appearances, including three Grey Cup appearances.
Their lowest point came in 1963 when they went 2-14. In fact from 1962-1965 they went 17-46-1 and missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. Which, incredibly remains the longest playoff drought in team history.
Remaining competitive down the decades
Edmonton were soon back to being competitive, and there is little doubt that the 1970’s were a good time to be a football fan in Edmonton. During the decade the team went 97-55-8. That had led to six Grey Cup appearances and three wins.
They finished off the decade with back to back title wins. And followed that up with championships in 1980, 1981 & 1982. Five consecutive Grey Cup wins is an incredible feat, and remains the greatest CFL Dynasty we have seen. From 1977-1982 the team would be dominant going 70-22-5 and converting that into six straight Grey Cup appearances (they lost in 1977) and five straight wins. It is hard to imagine any team matching this in today’s CFL.
The Esks would not suffer a losing season again until 1999. They would also appear in two more finals in the 1980’s. They were runners up in 1986, and won it all once more in 1987.
Lean times have been few and far between for Edmonton supporters. In the 1980s’ they went 116-50-2, and appeared in 5 grey cup games, winning 4. Although beaten in the West Final, they even ended the decade on a 16-2 season – still the most wins in a CFL regular season. In the 1990’s they went 108-72 and appeared in the Grey Cup game three times, winning once (in 1993). Ending the decade on a losing 6-12 season was a ‘novelty’ their fans weren’t too keen on.
To the Moon and back
Some fans like to have a classic player to associate with when coming to a new team. It makes knowing what vintage shirt to get that much easier!
Chances are if you started watching the NFL on Channel 4 in the 1980’s you remember Warren Moon playing for the Houston Oilers before going on to have a Hall of Fame career playing for a variety of NFL teams. But before his time in the NFL, Moon had a successful career in the CFL with Edmonton. So successful in fact that he is the only player to have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Moon had attended the University of Washington and was named Most Valuable Player in the 1978 Rose Bowl victory, prior to joining Edmonton. Despite his college success, Moon was led to believe he would only be a late-round NFL pick and thought that would limit his opportunities in the NFL. So he headed to Canada to demonstrate his skills at pro level.
Moon played six years for Edmonton from 1978 to 1983 and the Eskimos won the Grey Cup in five of those seasons (1978-82). He started out backing up Tom Wilkinson then took over the number one spot. Each year his stats improved in the CFL. Moon’s yards passing went from 1112 to 2382 to 3127 to 3959 to 5000 to 5648. His peak came in 1981-2 when he threw for over 10,000 yards and 67 touchdowns to just 25 picks.
He bowed out of the CFL on top as in 1983 as his 380 completions on 664 attempts for 5,648 yards and 31 touchdowns saw him named league MOP.
The Edmonton Elks today
Coming into the new millennium Edmonton were coming off their first losing season in years. But success soon returned. Throughout the 2000’s they went 96-83-1 and appeared in 3 Grey Cup contests, winning twice. It was in the first half of the decade that real success came however. From 2002-2005 they went 46-26 and made all three title match appearances. The low point came in the 2006-7 seasons when they went 12-23-1 and missed the postseason action.
Over the last full decade of play (2010-2019), Edmonton went 94-86. They appeared in the playoffs on seven occasions. Those post-season sojourns saw the Esks go 7-6. They also picked up a Grey Cup win. That win – giving them their 14th Grey Cup title was their only appearance in the big game of the decade. The rebranded Edmonton Elks, team and fans will want to get back to the levels of success and even dominance they have displayed in the past.
Are they right for you?
The Edmonton Elks are one of three “community owned” teams in the CFL (owned by local shareholders). They are a team, as we have seen, with a proud history of success. Now they are starting a new season with former REDBLACKS coordinator Jaime Elizondo as Head Coach. He will be reunited with QB Trevor Harris who was named the Elks Most Outstanding Player in 2019.
If the Elks are the ones for you then you’ll come to know their players by the tagline OAEAAE (Once an Elk always an Elk).
Banner image from myeastkkotenaynow.com