Clippers exploring multiple options to keep franchise in Nanaimo

By Dan Marshall
March 21, 2017 - 11:24am

Team president David LeNeveu (R) sitting beside BCHL commissioner John Grisdale at last week's news conference.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The Nanaimo Clippers are scrambling to find local ownership in a bid to save the franchise, with less than two weeks left on a deadline imposed by the club's current owners.

Team president David LeNeveu told NanaimoNewsNOW owning a junior hockey team isn't lucrative financially but the experience is very rewarding.

"We're looking for a group of individuals who are interested in the development of the players. It's not about earning money, it's about giving back to the community," LeNeveu said.

The current owners of the B.C. Hockey League team announced last week significant interest in acquiring the Clippers from another island community and they would sell the team if local ownership didn't come forward.

As of Monday there was no word on any developments on that front.

Current head coach Mike Vandekamp has been working in junior hockey for more than 20 years and has seen almost every conceivable ownership scenario. Those models include non-profit, a board of governors, family ownership, single and group ownership.

He believes any one of those structures could work in Nanaimo.

"It all comes down to having the right people and the right organizational structure. You have to obviously have a little bit of financial backing, but any of the models can have success," Vandekamp said.

Much of the discussion around the sale of the team has revolved around the need for local representation. The current group, with the exception of LeNeveu, are from outside of B.C.

Vandekamp believed bringing in LeNeveu, an alumni and local businessman, as team president was a step in the right direction.

"There has to be people I think that are on the ground in the community," Vandekamp said. "I think it gives us the opportunity to have some different branches. Every person that's involved in the organization is doing business with other people in the city or has friends in the community."

It's no secret the organization has been up for sale for the last two years, leaving some wondering how a local owner can be found in just two weeks.

But Vandekamp says there has been interest on more than one occasion from potential buyers over that time, noting the team has actually turned down multiple offers.

"Our current ownership group has passed up on a couple of opportunities because they want to leave the team to a group of people who are going to take it to the next level and have great success, and not just move the team for the sake of moving it," he said.

Recruiting has already begun for the 2017-18 season but it can't be business as usual until the ownership picture is cleared up, according to the coach.

"It's important for this to happen quickly. This type of news has sent shock waves throughout our organization whether it be trying to sell season tickets, corporate sales, or even our recruiting of players for next year with their families and some of their questions about the future of the team."

Junior hockey fans in Nanaimo are hoping for a similar outcome to a recent ownership change in West Kelowna.

In January, the Warriors announced the possibility of moving or not operating for the 2017-18 season. After six weeks new owners stepped forward and the club is staying put.

There's more of a time crunch with the situation here but there is optimism from the team and BCHL that the Clippers will remain in Nanaimo.


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