When the Edmonton professional football franchise decided to change the team name, they likely were unaware that elk-rutting season in the Canadian Rockies is considered to run from late August to mid-October.
Elks bugle and rub trees, removing the tattered velvet of their antlers and the sounds they make are considered among the more haunting and beautiful in nature.
You could look it up.
In the case of the first edition of the Edmonton Elks, I suggest Elk-rutting season begins Saturday and runs through until the end of the month.
This is when the freshly renamed team can be expected to announce to the herd that they are going to be dominant.
I mean, think about it:
The league has given the Elks the three teams that missed the playoffs two years ago as opposition for their first four games to open the season. You couldn’t possibly set a team up with a schedule designed to have more success for their inaugural season under their new name.
Yet, the betting lines suggest the team ought not be going into the season with any old fashioned traditional 1973-to-2005 Edmonton expectations of playing host to a playoff game.
The Elks odds, courtesy of BetOnline, improved from 10-to-1 to 9-to-1 to win the Grey Cup and the over-under for wins went from 5.5 to 6.0 coming out of training camp.
So, they’re ranked ahead of 10-to-1 Montreal, 10-to-1 B.C. and 18-to-1 Ottawa, whom they’ll play over their first three games. The one East team the Elks play twice is Ottawa.
Optimism seems to be overflowing within the group, but it hasn’t really affected the odds in this the first year of legalized single proposition betting in Canada.
Trevor Harris worked out his vocabulary, standing behind a microphone in a physically distanced on-field media availability wearing one of the 35,000 Elks-logo ‘Antlers Up’ T-shirts being given away to fans at Saturday’s 8 p.m. opening night fixture against the Ottawa Redblacks.
“There’s a ubiquitous feeling around here of belief and what we’re doing,” said the quarterback. “I feel really good about the guys in the locker-room. And I know we let go some really good football players and some guys we really cared about, players that I know are going to get picked up by other teams and do a really good job. But I think it just goes to show the quality of the players we have in this locker-room and that’s we’re really excited about.”
Before you could transcribe that quote, Shawn Lemon was in Calgary and Vonte Diggs in Toronto.
Both general manager and new head coach say they’re pleased with the way they’re taking their team into the season against the Ottawa team the odds suggest have decidedly poorer prospects than Edmonton.
“I think there’s a buzz here that we can accomplish everything we want to accomplish. I think the guys are jelling,” said general manager Brock Sunderland in a one-on-one interview in regards to his take on the group chosen to receive their first payday in 651 days.
“We’re always going to keep the best players,” said Sunderland. “Some of the guys we moved on from, like Shawn Lemon and Vonte Diggs, they’re good football players and great people. We just kept people we thought were a little bit better. That speaks to some of the talent we brought in this year.”
The GM said he was particularly impressed with Harris whom you should know is not listed in the betting propositions for MVP: Cody Fajardo 2-to-1, Bo Levi Mitchell 3-to-1, Willie Jeferson 3-to-1, Henoc Muamba 7-to-2, Brandon Banks 4-to-1 and Mike Reilly 6-to-1.
“Trevor came in, didn’t miss a practice, has no issues and probably came into camp in the best shape he’s been in his life.”
Head coach Jamie Elizondo offered his thoughts in his media availability at the conclusion of training camp.
“I’m happy so far with the energy of the team, the focus of the team. Knock on wood, we’re fairly healthy. We had a couple of key guys hurt but I think what we did to look after the guys is paying off,” he said of unscheduled days off and a cancelled scrimmage he gave his team when he thought they needed them during camp. “We’ll see how we are on Aug. 7. That will be a telling time.
“You have some markers along the way in a normal year with pre-season games: You’re on track; You have to pull back; You have to do more; You’re not that tough; You’re not conditioned. You don’t have those markers this year. There will still be some adjusting after what we see Aug. 7 but I am really happy with the progress here.”
The proof will be on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Edmonton was in the Grey Cup nine of the first 10 seasons when I started covering the team in 1973, but since winning their 13th Grey Cup in 2005, has only played host to two division semi-finals (2-0) and one Western final (1-0) and played in one Grey Cup (1-0).
If they want to really establish the brand in their inaugural season as Elks, playing a home playoff game should be considered an absolute priority.
Let Elks rutting season begin.
On Twitter: @byterryjones