Clippers go along with BCHL and put coaches on leave pending investigation; two assistants run bench in win; interim staff to be installed

Most times the action in a junior hockey league is on the ice with one team playing another. But these days in the BCHL it’s league versus team in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Or is it?

Let’s recap . . .

The BCHL informed players on the Nanaimo Clippers via email on Tuesday that Darren Naylor, the vice-president, general manager, head coach and director of hockey operations, and Colin Birkas, the associate GM and associate coach, had been placed on administrative leave while a league-appointed independent investigator reviewed “allegations of Code of Conduct breaches.” . . .

With the Clippers next scheduled to play last night (Friday) against the host NanaimoPowell River Kings, the league told the players that it would put another coach in place in order to keep their season going. . . .

On Thursday, the Clippers, Naylor and Birkas received a temporary injunction from a BC Supreme Court justice after filing a lawsuit that also asked for damages from the BCHL. . . . However, Naylor and Birkas weren’t on the Clippers’ bench for a 6-4 victory over the Kings last night. Instead, assistants Ken McPhalen and Bob Foglietta did the coaching. . . . The teams are to play again tonight in Powell River. . . .

On Friday night, the BCHL issued a statement via email, saying that the Clippers “without notice to the BCHL” had “made an ex parte injunction application and obtained a court order restraining the BCHL from placing the coaches on leave. The BCHL will be applying to have the order set aside.” . . .

The Clippers are owned by Wes Mussio, whose bio on the team website says he is a personal injury/estate litigation lawyer and the managing partner and founder of Mussio Goodman Law. . . .

Victoria-based CHEK News reported Friday that “a notice of civil claim was filed . . . by Clippers Hockey Limited Partnership, Naylor and Birkas, arguing that the league acted ‘erroneously and in a high-handed manner’ in issuing the suspensions when no allegations have been proven, irreparably damaging the coaches’ reputations and putting the team’s season in jeopardy because there are no alternate coaches to take over.” . . .

According to CHEK News, “The lawsuit indicates that the Nanaimo Clippers organization conducted its own internal investigation into the allegations after being alerted to the BCHL investigation at the start of the season in October 2021 and found no wrongdoing.” . . . The Clippers, including the two coaches, “argued that the complainants who first brought forward the allegations were mostly disgruntled former employees and former billet parents ‘who have significant motivation to lie, exaggerate and attack without evidence in support as they had a falling out with the coaches before leaving the Clippers organizations.’ ”

The CHEK News story is right here.

But, wait, there’s more . . .

Shortly after Friday’s game ended, the Clippers issued a statement that was signed by Mussio.

According to the statement, the Clippers have decided to “place their coaching staff on temporary leave to allow the BCHL to complete their internal investigation process. . . .

“We stand with our players and will allow them to continue the push for the conference title without any further distractions. An interim coaching staff will be implemented forthwith while the BCHL also has a chance to investigate the allegations to their satisfaction.”

So . . . it would seem that takes the whole mess out of the courts and back into the BCHL’s boardroom.

Stay tuned. . . .


G Kelton Pyne benefited from F Connor Bedard’s five-point night as the host ReginaRegina Pats beat the Calgary Hitmen, 5-0, on Friday night. Pyne, 16, was making his second appearance with the Pats, whose two regular goaltenders are sidelined with concussions. He stopped 24 shots in posting his first victory. . . . Bedard scored three times, giving him 28 on the season. He has 52 points in 35 games, including 28 in his last 11 outings. . . . Don’t be sleeping on Regina F Tanner Howe, either. Howe, who turned 16 on Nov. 28, had two assists. He’s got 38 points, including 22 assists, in 37 games. . . . If you track such things, Regina assistant coach Brad Herauf earned his first WHL head-coaching victory as he filled in for an ailing John Paddock. . . .

G Taylor Gauthier of the Portland Winterhawks had his shutout streak halted at Portland251:11 in an 8 -1 victory over the Chiefs in Spokane. While Gauthier set a franchise record for longest shutout streak, he fell short of the record (265:13) set by Chris Worthy of the Flin Flon Bombers in 1967-68. . . . F Cross Hanas scored three times for Portland, once on a penalty shot. He has six goals and 11 assists over his past six games. . . . According to the Winterhawks, Mike Johnston made his 700th regular-season appearance behind their bench. The WHL record (1,411) is held by Ken Hodge, who coached the original Edmonton Oil Kings and the Winterhawks. . . . The Chiefs and Winterhawks are in a stretch of five straight games against each other; Portland has won the first three — 7-3, 9-0 and 8-1. . . . The game was Ryan Smith’s first as Spokane’s head coach after he took over from Adam Maglio on Thursday. . . .

G Nolan Maier of the Saskatoon Blades stopped 29 shots in a 4-1 victory over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. That was the 112th regular-season victory of his career, eight shy of the WHL record that is shared by Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver Giants, 2004-09) and Corey Hirsch (Kamloops Blazers, 1988-92). . . .

G Sebastian Cossa turned aside 21 shots as the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Red Deer Rebels, 4-0. The Rebels could have closed to within four points of the Central Division-leading Oil Kings, but instead fell eight points off the pace. . . . Cossa leads the WHL with five shutouts this season. He has 13 in 84 career appearances. . . .

The Kamloops Blazers, beaten 4-3 by visiting Tri-City on Wednesday, scored Kamloopsfour times in the first period en route to a 6-1 victory over the Americans. F Luke Toporowski scored twice and added two assists, while linemate Logan Stankoven ran his point streak to 15 games with two goals and a helper. . . . Toporowski has 13 goals and seven assists in 11 games since being acquired from the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Stankoven, who has 63 points in 36 games, has 34 points in that 15-game tear. . . . BTW, a Kamloopsian contacted me with a friendly reminder for the four Tri-City players who were in a downtown Tim Hortons sans face masks on Friday morning: There is mask mandate in B.C. that takes in all public indoor settings. Hey, guys, not a good look to be wearing team colours and not abiding by provincial mandates. . . .

In other games . . . D Max Wanner (4), F Jagger Firkus (27) and D Daemon Hunt (13) each had a goal and assist to lead the host Moose Jaw Warriors to a 3-1 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . F Connor Hvidston’s sixth goal, at 2:36 of OT, gave the Swift Current Broncos a 4-3 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . F Pavel Novak scored the only goal of the shootout as the host Kelowna Rockets beat Everett, 4-3, snapping the Silvertips’ eight-game winning streak in the process. Czech freshman Gabriel Szturc scored his eight goal for the Rockets, this one was special because his parents were in the stands. . . . F Ty Thorpe scored twice to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 4-1 victory over the Cougars in Prince George. The Giants had had their previous two games postponed due to some positive tests within the organization. . . . The Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s last six goals — two each from F Lukas Svejkovsky and Reid Schaefer — as they beat the Royals 6-1 in Victoria.


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