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Elks charge into 2022 CFL season with renewed spirit

Rebuilding the Edmonton Elks, with a nod to history and longtime fans, but also with an eye to the future

Returning to Commonwealth Stadium was a welcome challenge for Victor Cui.

As he transitioned from the Knothole Gang to executive office, Cui takes charge of a community-owned football team that had reached record levels of fan interest and attendance during the 2021 CFL season.

“We had a lot of fires to put out on and off the field. It’s not another year of status quo,” said the new Edmonton Elks president and CEO.

Cui, who first attended football games as a teenager in the 1980s, left Edmonton two decades ago to work in international sports marketing. Returning to the city after a successful 12-year career as CEO of Asia’s largest sports media company, Cui says it’s actually his connection to Alberta’s capital and the team of football that resonates with fans.

“The biggest surprise for me was how excited the fans were that I was from Edmonton. When I talk to a fan and he refers to Edmonton 30 years ago, I know what he’s talking about. It makes a difference for people. said Cui, an Archbishop O’Leary graduate who once received an Eskimo-sponsored scholarship to the U of A.

Cui noticed it everywhere, even at the gym.

“A guy I hadn’t seen since 7th grade approached me and said he wanted to thank me for working hard. He said he hadn’t been to a game since years, but now he said he was buying season tickets,” Cui said.

At least one other season ticket holder echoed that sentiment.

“I finished at the end of last year. We are not renewing but then they hired Cui. It made the difference,” said Karl Nord, who has held season tickets for the local CFL club for 30 years. “The biggest complaint as supporters is that we felt disrespected.

“I like what I read and I heard what Victor Cui said. He gets it. He knows that the community must be involved.

Additionally, Nord says the steps taken by the Elks to bring in a locally connected CEO as well as the return of Chris Jones as general manager and coach outweighed concerns from his football buddies over the name change. of the team.

“Most of my friends haven’t recovered from the name change, but we love what’s happening now. We have already renewed our subscriptions,” Nord said.

Cui says fans tell him they’re still upset about the Eskimos switching to the Elks. (The team, founded in 1949, changed its name because Eskimos are considered a racial slur against Inuit.)

He says change was needed, adding, “We are at the stage in our world where our children are still challenging us to be inclusive and considerate. We have to realize that and we have to listen.”

However, Cui said Esquimaux is not a taboo word for the CFL club. “Eskimos is used in historical reference. It’s part of our history and I love and respect our team’s history.”

Going forward, the Elks boss says listening to the fans is crucial as the green and gold work to ‘become a successful sports club’.

To that end, the team renewed their official broadcast deal, and Morley Scott and Dave Campbell return for their 12th season with the team, as announcer and play-by-play analyst, respectively. CHED’s coverage begins with the Elks’ preseason opener against Winnipeg on May 27. Most importantly, Cui says social media will play a crucial role going forward.

“It’s the best case scenario. Fans can give you feedback immediately. People have a right to complain and I want to hear from them,” said Cui, who has 1.4 million friends. on Facebook and 200,000 followers on Twitter.

The Elks’ regular season home opener is June 18 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Reacting to ticket sales so far, Cui said, “I’m very sure this match is going to be sold out.”

See goelks.com for schedules and ticket information.