Elks kickoff historic 75th anniversary season

by | Jun 3, 2024 | Sports

The last few years have been some to forget for the 14-time Grey Cup Champion Edmonton Elks. The franchise has gone 28-58 since posting a record above .500 in a season (2017). 

Despite the recent struggles, 2024 has shown signs of a brighter future on the horizon. The franchise announced in March that it would move away from community ownership and seek a private group to purchase the team, and some believe the eventual sale will return Edmonton to its former CFL glory.

The Elks have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, so the road back to success will be long, but the preseason game and recent additions show their journey is off to a strong start. 

Edmonton announced several high-profile signings for the club’s 75th anniversary season, and the team’s chances of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2019 have never looked better. 

Saturday, May 25 was the first bit of action for the Elks, as the newcomers stepped onto the field in the green and gold. And while Edmonton came away with the loss, there are lots of reasons to be excited about the Elks this season.

Of the new additions, 2022 Grey Cup Champion Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson—who signed a one-year deal with the club in January that could pay him up to $500,000—shined in his Elks debut, finishing the game with 17 passes for a combined 190 yards.  

After the match, Bethel-Thompson expressed his happiness with his new club as Edmonton heads into the final week of training camp, calling his first game as an Elk an “overall, awesome first step.”

“The positive is that we’re scary. We’re a dynamic team,” Bethel-Thompson said to the media. “We get down to the red zone a couple of times; we got to score seven. If we do that early, we put this team away.”

“Obviously, you want to win, so it’s not the greatest of results, but the excitement should be there…hopefully we can turn this thing [the team] around, get some wins early and get some fans out for some fun Elks football soon.”

Bethel-Thompson isn’t the only Argonaut to move west to Edmonton this offseason. Three of the quarterback’s former teammates on the 2022 Grey Cup-winning roster (Wide Receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Kicker Boris Bede, and reigning CFL Most-Outstanding Special Teams Player Javon Leake) will join him on the Elks in 2024. 

Not all of the new signings made their mark in the first preseason game, but Head Coach and General Manager Chris Jones felt the team showed some positives in the loss. 

“We were able to evaluate about 80 some guys… the reason why you play the preseason games is to evaluate, and we got a pretty good look at three of our quarterbacks,” Jones said to the media post-game. “As far as the outcome of the game, two-to-one offensive output [touchdowns], and five turnovers is the difference in the ball game.”

“We played decent football on the defensive side. The fact we stopped the run was a very big positive…and I thought the secondary, for the most part, played pretty solid.”

With the Elks’ 75th season officially underway, the team has announced several events for fans to enjoy at games throughout the year, starting with the largest gathering of alumni in club history for a free autograph session available for fans at the home opener in June.

The Elks will also unveil an all-decade team at each of their home games this season, starting on June 14 with the 1950s and ending with a fan-voted “EE All-Time Team” at the season’s final game at Commonwealth Stadium on October 25.

After traveling to Vancouver to take on the BC Lions on May 31, the Elks will return home to open their season against the Saskatchewan RoughRiders on June 8 at Commonwealth Stadium. 

Cover photo by Sanjiyven Alfred Joseph

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