LeLacheur continues Edmonton exodus

The wisecracks started arriving in the in-box almost immediately. Make more than one move involving another CFL team, as when the B.C. Lions announced the appointment of Rick LeLacheur as club president Monday, and the one-liners were inevitable.

How long will it be before Bryan Hall is hired to replace Bob Marjanovich in the broadcast booth? Hugh Campbell is coming in as the new club consultant. How much time before Mike Benevides and Barron Miles are repatriated?

It’s what happens in a nine-team league. Think back far enough and there was a fairly substantial exodus from Calgary back when Wally Buono arrived. It’s no surprise to see a mini-shift from the Edmonton Eskimos following the move to secure Ed Hervey as general manager and surely vice-president once he understands the true meaning of Triple-O sauce after next season.

What matters more, of course, is the move made by owner David Braley that is arguably more important to the long-term health of the Lions, and whether LeLacheur will be given the financial resources to pull this stagnant franchise out of the spiral it has been in the last few years.

Truth be told, Braley could bring the great Norm Kimball to lead the charge back to respectability but if the guy on the ground running the operation isn’t spending the money in the right places a turnaround is difficult.

But in coaxing the 69-year-old LeLacheur back to the CFL the Lions have an experienced hand who demonstrated an ability to roll up his sleeves and get things done in the Alberta capital.

A former Edmonton Oil Kings captain, LeLacheur was volunteer vice-president of the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, once calling the construction of Commonwealth Stadium and its subsequent retrofit one of his proudest achievements.

He helped the Edmonton Oilers through some turbulent times while with Edmonton Economic Development and more recently has served on boards such as Travel Alberta and Horse Racing Alberta. Another success was the 2001 world championships of athletics and a couple of Grey Cup Festivals.

He had a hand in hiring Eric Tillman and promoting Danny Maciocia, so you can debate the merits of those decisions, and helped the career development of Hervey, so you also don’t have to be surprised by the Lions move, before stepping away from the Eskimos because of health concerns. The Eskimos didn’t win five Grey Cups in a row during LeLacheur’s watch but they became a better business.

If LeLacheur reconnects even half of the Lower Mainland business community which have pulled their support since the passing of Bob Ackles back to the Lions, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s clear the best part of the Lions’ 2017 season has come after playing their final game.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.