NANAIMO — The Nanaimo Clippers have a new owner who vows to keep the team in the harbour city and invest money to strengthen the organization.
Vancouver-based lawyer Wesley Mussio, 53, was officially unveiled as the team's new owner at a Friday, Nov. 10 news conference at Frank Crane Arena.
“In my respectful view, if you're spending a lot of time on scouting your going to get a really good product on the ice,” he said.
Mussio sold the Junior B Delta Ice Hawks as a condition to buy the Clippers. He said he's worked hard to build financial flexibility as a lawyer and publisher and will put the necessary resources in place to allow the Clippers to thrive on and off the ice.
“Hopefully with all of that it's going to be a new and improved product on the ice and in the stands, more fans and community spirit.”
Mussio said there are no immediate plans to change the organization's current staff, as he and newly named director of player personnel Darren Naylor evaluate the organization.
Current head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp's contract expires at the end of next season.
Mussio told fans and volunteers at the news conference he has no plans to pull the Clippers out of Nanaimo and is invested to see the organization flourish over the long haul.
To strengthen his ties in Nanaimo, Mussio will open a local branch for his law firm.
"I'm not just a Vancouver guy buying a team and ignoring the Nanaimo Clippers, that's not going to be the case at all.”
The Clippers have floundered off the ice over the past several years as a steady drop in corporate and fan support have hobbled the organization.
Mussio added his 18-year-old son Devon, who plays for the BCHL's Coquitlam Express, has no interest in playing for the Clippers to avoid any potential conflicts.
Clipper's president and governor Dave LeNeveu is retaining his five per cent ownership stake in the team.
LeNeveu told NanaimoNewsNOW he's excited by Mussio's commitment and passion for winning.
“As Wes has indicated I think we're going to be here long-term, there's no plans to leave. Nanaimo's a great market, there's 100,000 plus people in the city alone and we need a Junior A team in this city.”
LeNeveu said the Clippers were “millimeters” away from moving from Nanaimo earlier this year when former majority owner Ken Wagner announced he no longer wanted to own the BCHL club.
Wagner said in March he would sell the team, which could have then moved to another Vancouver Island city if local ownership didn't step forward. The Nanaimo Clippers Hockey Society temporarily saved the team while the Clippers organization started conversations with Mussio at the same time.
LeNeveu said the society will now decide how they want their previous financial investments in the organization handled. He said the money raised by the society is held in a trust account.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes
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