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Ex-CFL star, Ontario cabinet minister Lumsden in mix for Elks president: sources

A name familiar to Edmonton Elks fans has surfaced as a potential president of the CFL club.

According to two sources, Neil Lumsden, who won three Grey Cups as a fullback with Edmonton, has emerged as a candidate for the Elks’ full-time president position.

Lumsden, of London, Ont., is currently Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. He was elected in the riding of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek in June 2022.

Lumsden didn’t immediately return telephone messages to both his ministry and constituency offices Monday.

Ontario Minister of Tourism, culture and sport, Neil Lumsden is photographed during the Toronto International Film Festival, in Toronto, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. According to two sources, Lumsden, who won three Grey Cups as a fullback with Edmonton, has emerged as a candidate for the Elks’ full-time president position. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The sources, including one in political circles, spoke on the condition of anonymity as the Elks have not divulged any details regarding their presidential search.

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Both did say Lumsden hasn’t petitioned for the job, nor has he been offered it, but his emergence as a candidate makes sense given his association with the franchise and background, both in football (as a player and running a franchise) and business.

Rick LeLacheur has been Edmonton’s interim president/CEO since Aug. 22, assuming the post after the Elks and former president/CEO Victor Cui parted ways.

LeLacheur previously served as Edmonton’s president/CEO from 2002-2011, winning two Grey Cups. He was also the B.C. Lions president/CEO from 2018-2022.

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Lumsden played 10 CFL seasons with the Toronto Argonauts (1976-78), Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1978-79) and Edmonton (1980-85). He joined Edmonton at a time when the team ruled the league, winning five straight Grey Cups (1978-82).

Lumsden was named the top Canadian in Edmonton’s come-from-behind 26-23 Grey Cup win over Ottawa in 1981.

Lumsden, who won a Vanier Cup at the University of Ottawa in 1975, was the East Division’s top rookie in 1976. He appeared in 141 career CFL games, rushing for 3,755 yards and 36 TDs on 767 carries while adding 180 catches for 1,729 yards and 15 touchdowns.

He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

After his CFL playing career, Lumsden served as Ticats GM/director of business operations (1996-99), earning a fourth Grey Cup ring when Hamilton defeated Calgary 32-21 in the 1999 game at Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium. In 2003, he was named chief operating officer and general manager of the world road cycling championships that were held in Hamilton.

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Five years later, Lumsden was named honorary chairman of the Vanier Cup that also took place in Hamilton. In addition, he spent three years as the athletic director at Brock University.

Edmonton has enjoyed a long and storied CFL tenure. The franchise has amassed 699 all-time wins — tying it with Calgary for the most in league history — and won 14 Grey Cups, the last coming in 2015 when it finished atop the West Division with a 14-4-0 record.

But Edmonton hasn’t reached the CFL playoffs since 2019 when it crossed over into the East Division after finishing fourth in the West with an 8-10 record. After dispatching Montreal 37-29 l, the Alberta club lost 36-16 to Hamilton in the conference final.

Since the CFL resumed play in 2021 — the global pandemic forced it to cancel the 2020 season — Edmonton has recorded three straight fifth-place finishes in the West Division, with records of 3-11-0 in 2021 and 4-14-0 in the last two years.

The franchise averaged just over 24,700 spectators per game this season — which included a season-low crowd of 19,921 that watched Edmonton surge to a 22-0 lead before dropping a 38-29 home loss to Winnipeg. This year’s attendance is down significantly from 2015 when the franchise averaged a CFL-high 31,517 fans per game.

Next season, Edmonton will close the upper bowl at Commonwealth Stadium, which has a seating capacity for 56,400 fans.


&© 2023 The Canadian Press

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