Sometimes it is the truth teller that pays the greatest price.
That was the case for former Edmonton Elks’ defensive lineman and radio colour analyst Eddie Steele when he publicly addressed the organization’s dysfunction under then-general manager Brock Sunderland last year. Despite saying what many in the league were already thinking, Steele was fired from his job with the team broadcaster 630 CHED radio in Edmonton following backlash from the organization.
Now the Edmonton Football Team is under new management, with Sunderland, head coach Jaime Elizondo and president Chris Presson all shown the door as unceremoniously as Steele was. A new regime, led by president Victor Cui and Steele’s old coach Chris Jones, have taken over to early applause, leaving the outspoken CFL commentator feeling vindicated.
“That’s a great word. That’s what I was telling people, it was a vindicating feeling after the poor execution of how everything ended up with me. Just to see how it all unfolds, the fact that I wasn’t just randomly spouting out of my mouth, I was literally saying my viewpoint as an, air quote, analyst and it ended up being bang on,” Steele said in an appearance on The SportsCage in Regina.
“It was a pretty good feeling. You never want to see people lose jobs, but they’ve had quite a turnaround since with the new regime in place. I think it ended up being a great decision and move from the organization.”
Under Sunderland and Presson’s leadership, Steele had dubbed his beloved Elks as bottom-feeders in the CFL. Now that both have been replaced, change has come in the form of the hands on approach of the newly hired Cui.
The team has made it a mission to repair damaged community connections, linking up with the University of Alberta, selling discounted season tickets in special promotions, and bringing back the iconic double E logo. In Steele’s opinion, it has been nothing short of a smashing success.
“The new president, Victor Cui, he’s just coming in and hitting home run after home run with everything he’s doing, from the different rollouts that they’ve done to the different programs for enhancing season tickets,” he said.
“Honestly, the biggest thing is we’re in a day and age of social media, that’s just the reality, and he’s touching people and engaging with so many people via social media online. That’s so big to restore those relationships out here and he’s doing it better than I’ve ever seen done.”
The new president reportedly speaks to as many as 350 fans per day personally, using social media to bring back the CFL’s community atmosphere. The feedback has wow’ed Steele.
“I think it’s very special, the fact that the average fan can reach out and you probably will hear back via direct message or via mention or something like that from the president of the club,” he said. “That’s big, that excites people, the fact that you’re restoring that personal touch to the community. This guy’s done it all right and they’re showing the fruits of his labor and early returns.”
As for on-the-field success, that remains to be seen, but Steele has complete faith in the abilities of Jones.
“Chris Jones, he rubs people the wrong way, but he’s a flat out winner and he turns programs around,” Steele promised. “Don’t be [surprised] to see them have a better season than they did last year. I mean, that’s easy to say because look what they did, so call me a genius on that already, but they’re gonna be good.”
Genius may be a stretch, but the man who called Edmonton’s downfall from within is betting on the club going in the right direction. It might be time to jump on the bandwagon.