EDMONTON - There will be Eskimos fans delighted to hear the news.
And there will be Edmontonians with an eye to a bigger picture who will have an entirely different view.
Rick LeLacheur Tuesday announced he’s handed in his resignation, effective at the conclusion of his contract in December 2012. He said he decided to make the announcement now to allow the board of directors time to conduct a proper search for his replacement.
LeLacheur has played a such a major part in Edmonton sports history, it’s a shame that he’ll be the man remembered for the North American pro sports record 34 consecutive years in the playoffs ending on his watch.
It’s too bad, but he’ll be remembered for presiding over the second most unsuccessful era of Eskimos football.
It’s sad, but he’ll be remembered as the dummy who promoted Danny Maciocia — an unqualified disaster as general manager the extent of which is being further revealed with every day — to the position.
“Unfortunately, that happened,” said LeLacheur, a man who is definitely not in denial.
“Most sports fans only care whether you win or lose and rightly so. I recognize that if you are in sport and you don’t win, you are not successful.”
LeLacheur, 62, has had recent health issues. Last December he had surgery for prostate cancer resulting in complications which include a hernia operation scheduled for next week.
But he said his decision is based more on timing.
“I want to travel and do some other things. I left Economic Development Edmonton after seven years. I think seven to 10 years is about the right amount of time to spend in a position like this,” he said.
“We’ve been working on this for some time,” said Doug Goss, the Eskimo chairman of the past two years and co-chairman with LeLacheur on the most ballistic hosting of a Grey Cup in the history of the event.
“Rick is the consummate Edmontonian. He’d do anything for the community. He’s done just about everything.”
A native of Edmonton and an Oil King captain back in the Bill Hunter days, LeLacheur actually started with the Eskimos as a member of the board of directors.
Named to head the Eskimos board in 1986 and 1987, LeLacheur has either been chairman or co-chairman of all the Grey Cup successes here.
He was vice-president of the 1978 Commonwealth Games and president and CEO of the Edmonton 2001 World Championships in Athletics success stories, and played a significant role in saving the Edmonton Oilers as head of Economic Development Edmonton from 1992 to 1998.
He became COO of the Eskimos in 2002 and CEO in 2006.
That’s one hell of a resume. And that’s just the sports stuff.
The Eskimos have become a much better business because of LeLacheur and there’s $125 million in improvements in and around Commonwealth Stadium, including $12 million of new green seats about to be installed, which will be part of his considerable legacy.
Commonwealth Stadium is the one string that runs through most of his resume.
“The thing I’m proudest of is the stadium,” he said.
“The stadium is 33 years old and now good for another 33 years. In the U.S., this stadium would be torn down and replaced by now.”
LeLacheur hopes to leave one more legacy.
“I want to get that north end done,” he said of completing the overall stadium with a concept he’s been developing for the scoreboard end, involving the removal of seats and replacement with a signature structure.
“Rick did an unbelievable job on the business side for the Eskimos. He’s leaving the absolute best facility in the CFL for the future,” said Goss.
“He’d be the first to admit he wasn’t a football guy, but he had the courage to understand he didn’t want Danny Maciocia in there any longer. The timing of removing him when he did has put the Eskimos in good position this year. Hopefully he’ll get a Grey Cup ring before he goes.
“Rick LeLacheur has every reason to leave the Eskimos with his head held high.”
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