EDMONTON - Commonwealth Stadium is getting new seats, and the Edmonton Eskimos want to do all they can to keep their fans on the edge of them.
But the team is going through a retrofitting of its own, with ‘retro’ being the key word for new head coach Kavis Reed.
While it’s his first season behind the bench in Edmonton, Reed patrolled the secondary wearing Green and Gold from 1995-99, when the Eskimos were building towards a record 34-consecutive playoff appearances.
They have since missed three of the past five post-seasons.
“I really believe we inherited a fairly good situation. We’ve made some changes, however. We are trying to establish the culture that I played under in the Ronnie Lancaster era, and the Hugh Campbell era,” said Reed. “You can’t argue with greatness. This organization has established itself on a tradition of winning.
“From a business perspective, it’s quite honestly the envy of a lot of teams, professionally, in North America. And on the playing field this organization has won a lot of championships.”
In fact, they’ve won the most Grey Cups out of anyone, with 13. But no pressure, right?
“I don’t feel pressure, I feel an obligation to be a part of what we deem as a turnaround to that tradition that we have established here in Edmonton,” Reed said. “There isn’t a pressure, there is a sense of pride of being a part of it because I was cultivated in this family in the mid-90s.”
The following decade saw Reed evolve from player to coach, spending the past nine seasons on the sidelines in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Saskatchewan and, most recently, as defensive co-ordinator in Winnipeg.
“Historically, I’ve been a part of teams that have been on the rebound and more of my temperament and personality loves to see the construction part of it,” Reed said.
“I truly believe that we have the opportunity to be successful here. We know that it’s going to be a process and we’re going to be patient.”
If the same is true for their fan base, expectations are going to be low through the upcoming rebuilding.
“Despite external expectations, internally, we have the expectation of winning,” Reed said. “I think we have just as good an opportunity of winning as any of the other seven teams in the league.”
A big part of that will be determined in training camp.
“Attitude and talent are the criteria that we’re looking for. I think that we’ve improved globally,” Reed said. “We increased our speed, we have better size in the receiver position, but more importantly, the quality of Canadian depth that we have. I truly believe that we’ve improved that critical area of Canadian talent. That is probably the biggest.”
SIGNS, SIGNS: The Eskimos have come to terms with 2011 draft choices OL Scott Mitchell, WR Nate Coehoorn and WR Youssy Pierre, who are all expected to report at rookie camp on Wedesday, along with Edmonton’s other selection, DB Hugo Lopez, who signed last week.
“As a coaching staff, we’re excited at the opportunity (Wednesday) to actually start to engage these young rookies as we’ve had a lot of changes on our roster,” Reed said.
Single-game tickets for the upcoming season go on sale Wednesday across the league.