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Canadian Football League Lions and Elks rebuild their fan base… Week 1 pick

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What team president Victor Cui accomplished so quickly in Edmonton — mending the Elks’ fractured relationship with an increasingly disgruntled and apathetic football community — could be matched by a resurgence of the Columbia Lions. British.

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The two franchises, which meet Saturday night at BC Place Stadium to kick off their 2022 Canadian Football League regular seasons, are both rebuilding their fanbases.

Cui sparked the interest and regained the trust of a community that was ignored and offended by previous leaders. He did it through a wise tweet, a good decision, a serious conversation, a forceful speech and an impactful public appearance all at once. His innovation and dedication to the task will surely show in ticket sales and reinvigorating other revenue streams. For example, the team’s “Stand With Ukraine” promotion for a preseason game against Calgary helped boost attendance to 33,423.

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The Lions, meanwhile, have been trying for years to transform themselves into a more relevant member of Vancouver’s eclectic sports and recreation landscape, with limited success, so their rise to the mat could be more dramatic. They opened a limited number of seats in the upper bowl of BC Place on Wednesday and there’s a good chance they’ll reach 30,000 fans.

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“I think that’s a good sign,” team president Rick LeLacheur said of the ticket request. “There’s a lot of excitement and I think that goes with the change of ownership, with (Amar Doman) being local. He’s quite well known and I think we have some interesting things to do with the team. has a lot of excitement with the Lions and the CFL now, which comes in handy when getting into ticketing.

Doman is on a mission to grow the football community in BC’s Lower Mainland. In the absence of an established star quarterback, he is the undisputed face of the franchise. His local business connections are an asset, as is his friendly demeanor, his passion for the CFL and his willingness to spend money on the product, on and off the field. On Saturday, the halftime show will be pop group OneRepublic.

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“We said from the start with Amar, he knows this is a long-term business,” LeLacheur said. “It won’t happen overnight and we have clearly focused on the home opener. But we have to do it one or two tickets at a time and that’s going to take some time and that definitely helps if you have an exciting and winning football team on the pitch.

“It’s also the game day experience and social media. I’m just really proud of our social media team. I think our guys knocked him out of the park compared to anybody else. It’s a bit of bragging. I think our game day presentation is much better than it was. We have a lot of young people, we gave them the reins and told them go for it.

Cui, clearly the face of the community-owned Elks, said he owed a debt of gratitude to LeLacheur, who hired him to work on the communications team for the 2001 World Championships in Athletics in Edmonton in 2001. .

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“I was very lucky because my mentor is one of the smartest minds in the sport in Canada, Rick LeLacheur,” said Cui. “The guy is a genius. He’s been around. He has seen it all. I literally wouldn’t have had a career if he didn’t trust me. He’s so smart and so good at what he does. I was lucky enough to be able to draw on his advice.

LeLacheur said he and his wife, Joan Forge, who was also on the 2001 team, visited Cui in Asia when he ran the One Championship mixed martial arts organization.

“He really grew up with it,” he said. “Joan told him at one point that we would work for him.”

Today, they work together and separately on the same mission, making their teams and the CFL more relevant to an increasingly fractured ticket-buying audience. The league’s average attendance has been steadily declining since reaching 28,190 in the 2012 regular season. By 2019, it had fallen to 22,916.

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Cui, who has made One Championship a thriving global property, sees the CFL’s attendance challenge primarily as a problem of an outdated business model that demands innovation and a move away from reliance on sales. subscriptions.

“With every organization in the world, subscriptions are down. Why? Because the value proposition of 30 years ago was true, when there were only two sports and not a ton of movie theaters, when you couldn’t hop on a WestJet flight to Las Vegas for $100 , when there were not 100 festivals in the city . So you and the family are going to go there 10 times a year. This is not the world we live in today.


Montreal to Calgary
Thursday — 9 p.m. ET, Calgary by 3.5
Valid or not, questions about Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell’s discussion of the Stamps’ outlook for 2022. The thing is, they’re deep enough to get there regardless. Additionally, Montreal’s defensive backfield has been rebuilt and will suffer the associated ups and downs. Calgary by 5.

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Ottawa to Winnipeg
Friday — 8:30 p.m. ET, Winnipeg at 9:05 a.m.
The 2019 and 2021 Gray Cup winners open as overwhelming favorites on the court against an Ottawa team picked by some pundits to win the CFL East. Champions are deeper and more talented and will show it early and often. Winnipeg by 10.

Hamilton to Saskatchewan
Saturday – 7 p.m. ET, Saskatchewan by 1
A Ticats defense that has been stingy in 2021 looks even more formidable with the additions of Micah Johnson and Richard Leonard. Stability on this side of the ball and at QB, with undisputed No. 1 Dane Evans at the helm, is key. Hamilton by 6.

Edmonton to BC
Saturday – 10 p.m. ET, BC by 3.5
If you highlight BC QB Nathan Rourke’s preseason numbers and the Elks’ embarrassing home loss to Calgary, a Lions win is an easy pick. But Nick Arbuckle apparently gets the ball back and Chris Jones just has to make the most of his starting defense. Special upset. Edmonton by 1.

Betting lines:
All games on TSN

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