Report and photos by Corrinna Massey
Come on …. another loss.
These Elks can not even win against one of the worst teams, let alone the best.
They have been utterly destroyed by the Calgary Stampeders, the Montreal Canadians, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and now the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
Sitting here again in the half-filled stands of Commonwealth Stadium, this long-time fan ponders first, how we got here, and second, the inevitable fact that the Edmonton Eskimo dynasty of old may never be resurrected even under rebranding.
One of the greatest teams in CFL history, and second only to the Toronto Argonauts in Grey Cup wins, needs our support. Let’s don ourselves in our favorite green and gold outfits.
Let’s grab our children and their friends and bring them to the next game. Let’s fill the stands and cheer so loud it rocks the Stadium. Maybe then we can have victory.
As of this moment, unless there is some miracle, the newly rebranded Edmonton Elks will not even make the playoffs. They will be sitting on the sidelines evaluating what went wrong and looking at each other for answers.
So, what did go wrong? Let’s start with the idea that for the past few years this football club has been plagued with controversy and controversy breeds dissention. From the controversial banning of long-time superstar Joey Moss from the dressing room – he is too distracting – to the termination of long-time equipment manager, Dwayne Mandrusiak, and to the controversy of the team’s name, this club has had its issues. And now Sunderland trades our starting quarterback.
What is he thinking?
Does anyone know?
The cause of this continual decline from glory is on the minds of critics, analysts, and fans alike. Is it, as the newly fired game-day studio analyst Eddie Steele stated, a trickle-down effect from management strategies and management business perspectives, or a Brock Sunderland top-down issue? Is it that the tension over the vaccine status controversy amongst the players has left a sour taste in the dressing room? Or is it something else?
Inquiring fans want to know.
Still, every year at the start of the season, we old football fans continue to hope. We want to have a hometown victory celebration on the streets of Whyte Avenue that is reminiscent of the old City of Champions. We want a celebration that surpasses and outshines those celebrations of the once victorious Edmonton Oilers. I personally want to run through the street wearing stupid looking Elk Antlers and blowing on an Elk horn shouting victory … victory … victory.
For this year Edmonton fans welcomed a newly branded Edmonton football team. Unveiled in June 2021, just prior to the new season, Edmonton’s CFL fans got their first glimpse of the newly named Edmonton Elks.
No more would the team be known as the Edmonton Eskimos, even though an overwhelming majority of season ticket holders did not want or see any reason for the change. These season ticket holders, fans old and new, would see the familiar well-established double E logo plastered on all forms of swag, and would recognize the same green and gold colours of the past decades.
But now, along with the old, there were new elements in the promotional materials: the Elk Antlers and the Elk horn.
One of my coworkers told me she couldn’t wait to purchase her own pair of Edmonton Elks Antlers. She even wore them to the first game she attended this year.
Now it was my turn. The date is September 11, 2021, and the game the Edmonton Elks versus their archrivals the Calgary Stampeders. Remembering the losses in previous week’s and the one victory in the Labor Day Classic, I decide to test out my theory.
My theory: Edmontonians will always show up, will dress themselves in the old and new swag and cheer their team onto victory.
Stepping onto the party bus heading for my first Edmonton Elks game of the season brings back so many memories. I am once again eighteen and sitting on the patio of Earl’s Tin Palace downtown Jasper Avenue. I have a salted lime margarita in one hand and the EE flag in the other. Waving frantically at the traffic, I anticipate that first touchdown pass and believe, that following in the footsteps of the likes of Tom Wilkinson, Warren Moon will lead my team to another Grey Cup and stomp those Calgary Stampeders.
Jump 30 years. A few grey hairs, a few extra pounds here and there, a margarita that has changed to a bulldog and the location changed to a corner booth at Canadian Brewhouse in St. Albert, I am still that same old fan, hoping my team will bring back the Grey Cup.
The fans cheer as the bus leaves the parking lot – but there is no party. The bus is an old school bus with no football décor. To gain a little excitement and enthusiasm, we all start up the old familiar Eskimo fight song. Giggling to myself, I keep thinking the song will have to change with the rebranding – because you can’t extend the word Elk to fill the word Eskimo. Or can you?
So … did the game and fans meet my expectations? Are we in for the dynasty of old?
The answer is simple. No.
Although the fans have shown up, the stands are not as full as I remember from my youth. There are no loud victory cheers – no Stadium wide fan wave – no nothing. In the stands you see some fans wearing Elks jerseys, and one fan even had his green and gold flag wrapped around his shoulders.
Sadly, the best part of the occasion is the dance-off by the Edmonton Elks Cheerleaders and the Mascot. Of course, it was fixed, and Spike, the newest addition to the Elks mascot team, won.
As for the game, the Stampeders crush the Elks in a 32-16 loss. Filled with Edmonton sacks and fumbles, and with Rene Paredes, the Stamps kicker, scoring 6 field goals, it is an even greater disappointment than Edmontonians’ lack of fan fever.
Leaving the stadium, I only see the sad faces of the fans – no hoots and hollers – no one blowing the Elk horn in celebration. Many of the antlers are in people’s hands rather than on their heads, and some are even tossed in the garbage with disgust.
Sitting on the bus, the silence is evident. It is not the same as the past. The Elks are not the dynasty I had hoped they would be.
This game and so many others that followed were just huge disappointments. The Elks have made no big and memorable plays. The losses continue to pile up on their futile drive to the Grey Cup, and even our quarterback, Trevor Harris, was traded on October 17.
I do not foresee an Elks dynasty anytime soon. But still …. here is hoping for next year.
Come on Edmontonians, let’s hear the charge of Go Elks Go!!! Elks lead us to a new era of Edmonton football victories.