'No turning back,' Clippers to move or shut down without local ownership

By Ian Holmes
March 16, 2017 - 5:55pm

L-R John Grisdale, Dave LeNeveu, Ken Wagner address the uncertain future of the Nanaimo ClippersIan Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Without local ownership, the Nanaimo Clippers won't be operating in the harbour city next season.

Ken Wagner, the team's majority owner, made the announcement at a news conference Thursday. Wagner said he's looking at relocating the team to another Vancouver Island city.

“We are just done writing cheques, we're spent out,” Wagner said. “That's really the nuts and bolts of it. The business side is the numbers are the numbers, the emotional side is we don't want to move the club, but at this point we're prepared to.”

Wagner has put a deadline of “within two weeks” for Clippers president and junior partner Dave LeNeveu to find local ownership willing to take over the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) club.

If local ownership doesn't materialize in that time frame, Wagner said he will consider relocating the team or shutting it down.

LeNeveu, a former star Clippers goaltender, teared up during the 20-minute news conference at Frank Crane Arena before city officials, fans, team employees and volunteers.

“At this point for me I'm just looking for someone to come in and help this team survive,” LeNeveu said.

Wagner wouldn't reveal details of what other island city could land the Clippers, nor would he say who is behind the offer. He made it clear the interested party is “bending over backwards” to acquire the team.

He said he will no longer be the majority owner of the Clippers in Nanaimo beyond the immediate future.

Wagner, who owns the group along with three other out of province partners, stressed the importance of having local investors buy the franchise.

“It's the only way it's going to work is if it's local, if it's one guy or ten, so be it, but it needs to be locally owned and that's paramount.”

He said the last year has been difficult for the organization for many reasons, including the uncertainty with the possibility that a Western Hockey League franchise could bounce the Clippers out of Nanaimo.

Wagner put the Clippers up for sale two years ago. He said there has been interest since that time but not to the point where a formal transaction made sense.

He said it's a possibility the Clippers could cease operations for a year while the club's ownership situation gets sorted out.

BCHL comissioner John Grisdale told NanaimoNewsNOW the BCHL and league governors would support the team's sale to another Vancouver Island market in time for the 2017/18 season.


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