'I'm not ashamed'

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Hugh Campbell, in all his years as a player in Saskatchewan and coach, GM and CEO in Edmonton, going back to the mid-60s, never once missed the playoffs before.

He had his own personal 33-year streak of not missing the playoffs.

"I'm not ashamed in any way,'' he said when the Edmonton Eskimos' 34-year record run was over yesterday. "It would be an insult to all the other teams in the league over the years if I was ashamed.

"I was thrilled it didn't end last year. We had a similar team last year but that team, at the right times, sucked it up.

"Last year's team won two-thirds of the close games. This year's team won one-third of them. It is what is is. It's not like the sky is falling or this is the end of the world.''

It might be the end of Campbell at the helm of an organization that is in transition to Rick LeLacheur's leadership. Or not.

WRONG IMPRESSION

But Campbell, who announced that Danny Maciocia was coming back next year when the Eskimos lost the second of the back-to-back games to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, said reporters got the wrong impression in the dressing room that day.

"It's not my decision involving any changes.''

Maciocia definitely sounded like somebody who was 100% convinced he was going to return as head coach when it was over yesterday, the Eskimos eliminated from playoff contention in the Western Conference.

"I look forward to starting a new streak,'' he said. "I look forward to the beginning of a new 34-year streak in 2007.

"I've said before that I wouldn't trade being in this place with any other ball club in the CFL. I love this place.

"The streak is now officially over. A lot of people here were part of that fabulous streak. It's come to an end. We have to go back and start a new one.

"It could have been better. It could have gone on longer. We had to deal with the pressure of repeating,'' said the coach who won a Grey Cup in his rookie season.

"It's tough the year after you win a championship. Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Hurricanes.

"This is disappointing. We're all very proud of the tradition of the Edmonton Eskimos.

"... We will be back. We'll be the Edmonton Eskimos everybody has known over the years and the last number of years.''

HE RELATES

It'll be LeLacheur, regardless of whether Campbell returns or not, who has to take this organization forward to the future. "It's disappointing,'' he said. "We could have had a better record. But we can't look back. We have to look ahead.''

LeLacheur says he knows a lot of fans left Commonwealth Stadium upset. While perhaps that doesn't say a lot about them, considering what they've watched here over the years, LeLacheur says he relates.

"I understand it. There's been a tradition for a long time. It's created expectations.

"When you look around the league and see some of the teams which have been on the other end of things, what we're facing right now has been a way of life for them. Our fans don't accept it. We don't accept it. But right now, we have to deal with it.''


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