EDMONTON – The Edmonton Eskimos, who reported a net profit of $473,471 in 2011 on Tuesday, are confident that the loss of quarterback Ricky Ray won’t hurt them financially.
The Eskimos head into the 2012 season without its face of the franchise, with Ray having been traded to the Toronto Argonauts in December.
“You know what, it’s a tough sell only if you look at it in terms of personalities,” Eskimo President and CEO Len Rhodes said during the Canadian Football League team’s annual general meeting Tuesday.
“But we’re going to develop those personalities. It’s team before individuals and, in the salary-cap era, we can’t give 10 per cent of our salary cap to one individual player. We’re going to make sure that the player is surrounded.”
Former Argos pivot Steven Jyles will assume Ray’s starting role coming into training camp, but it’s not just at quarterback that star power missing.
Tailback Jerome Messam pushed and plowed his way to a 1,000-yard rushing season last year but will now try to make an impression with the Miami Dolphins in the NFL.
Soft-spoken slotback Fred Stamps will be Jyles’ No. 1 target and also the biggest name on a team where the average fan may struggle to recognize the players when the Eskimos host Ray and the Argos for the season opener on June 30.
Still, Rhodes, who is almost three months into the role that he’s taken over from Rick LeLacheur, said that optimism is one of the foundations of the Eskimo organization for the coming season.
Rhodes said that Jyles, or whomever gets the start behind centre on opening day, will bring something new to the field.
“You can argue that because we had a predictable offence in the past that maybe that’s why our O-line went down,” he pointed out. “Maybe the defence knew what they were going to play against.
“We’ve got to try a new element, make it more exciting, have the potential for the big-play offence. So what does that mean? We’re going to develop those personalities throughout the year and I guarantee you, by the end of this season, people will be a lot more familiar with those faces.”
Eskimo Head Coach Kavis Reed also said that familiarity with the players would develop over the course of the season.
“I think the names have changed and (lack of) familiarity obviously sometimes makes things a little more difficult, but it’s going to be what we do on the playing field. That’s going to be the telling story,” he said. “Everything goes around what happens on that playing field … and that’s our job, is to make certain that our team is competitive.
“The fans are going to see once the season starts whether or not we’re a competitive football team and our main focus is to give them that.”
Last season’s profit comes from an operating revenue of $17.6 million and operating expenses of $16.9 million, treasurer Bruce Bentley told the Eskimo board members. “There were two significant factors in this revenue increase. Hosting a home playoff game generated $954,000 and the game day revenue was up $710,000, primarily from the sale of the new south-end suites and an increase in concession sales.
“These two elements provided almost $1.7 million of the $1.8 million increase.”
An $87,000 decrease in gate receipts was attributed to the loss of season-ticket holders who had previously purchased solely to get tickets to the 2010 Grey Cup at Commonwealth Stadium. Single-game ticket sales made up for the majority of the decrease, though, Bentley said.
Esks add Canadian scout
Rob Ralph, who has been with the Eskimos for the past 12 years, will take over as a scout to monitor the football talent in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
“He has a great passion for the CIS game and, collectively between Rob, Paul Jones, Ed Hervey and myself, from a scouting standpoint, we can continue to bring in the young talent to this team and let the franchise continue to grow,” said Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman.