Home is where the heartache is for the Elks
The Edmonton Elks are a CFL franchise with a proud and successful history. But right now they, and their fans are suffering. A 43-31 home defeat by the Toronto Argonauts this week was made all the worse by them being behind by a single point at halftime. But that wasn’t the worst of it. That home defeat was Edmonton’s nineteenth consecutive home loss. A CFL record that the Elks will not want to extend.
Edmonton can point to periods of sustained success throughout their history. This is reflected in their all time record before this season standing at 692-520-18 record. Coupled with 23 Grey Cup appearances and 14 title wins.
A sustained history of success
After going 4-10 in their inaugural season the Elks gradually improved. From going 19-25 over their first three seasons, the Eskimos then 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. Even then 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 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. In fact from 1977-1982 the team were 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.
Home was where the heart was
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 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.
But that is not the case now. Crowds are greatly diminshed and losing nineteen on the bounce at home isn’t helping.
The lean times
The lean times have been few and far between for Edmonton.
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.
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.
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 then 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.
The Elks brand needs some success
In 2021 Edmonton rebranded as the Elks. The team made the announcement whilst revealing their new logo and helmet design. And it was generally well received. The marketing department did a great job of making fans feel at home with the new name.
The team also sported a new helmet design too, yellow in colour with green antlers stretching across the back. For many it was a joy to see Edmonton abandon that pretty quickly and return to a variation on the classic Double E logo.
But since 2021 the on-field product has left something to be desired. As the Elks, Edmonton sported an anaemic 7-25 record going into this season (now 7-27), and of course have not won at home since October the 12th 2019 when they defeated the BC Lions 19-6.
The Elks tried to address declining attendance with ‘guaranteed win tickets‘ to start the season. Meaning if they lost you got free attendance at the next game. But, they and their fans will be desperate to break the streak and get that elusive home win soon.
Banner image: The Elks suffer their latest home loss at the hands of Toronto. Image from American Football Intenational. (PHOTO: WALTER TYCHNOWICZ).