NANAIMO — Phil and Brenda Levesque are saying goodbye to something near and dear to their hearts - the Nanaimo Buccaneers hockey team.
This is the sixth season for the VIJHL team that they started and it's been the most successful regular season ever.
As the club prepares to host mid island rivals the Oceanside Generals on Feb 1, the Bucs are in first place in the North Division by two points over Campbell River.
Nanaimo's 33 wins and 68 points are a franchise best and that has the Levesque's excited for a long playoff run.
Phil Levesque is happy with the team's performance on the ice and pleased that he's found a new owner for the club in Clayton Robinson.
Brenda Levesque expects a smooth transition with the new owner because of a shared philosophy about the value of local players and the importance of building relationships with fans and volunteers.
With the last month of the regular season beginning, the Levesque's have eyes on a VIJHL championship and maybe even a Cyclone Taylor Cup title.
That would be a fitting way to leave the Bucs, an organization that Brenda called 'their baby'.
With almost six full seasons of history there are a lot of moments that come to the forefront.
The Levesque's have fond memories of many players over the years including Chad and Trent Bell, Dylan Moore, Travis Briggs, and Carter Turnbull.
But getting to watch their grandson Jordan was a special thrill. Jordan Levesque played four years with the Bucs from 2012-2016.
He had 214 points in 166 games and led Nanaimo in scoring in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Brenda says it's great to have former players come back and talk about their experiences from their days with the Buccaneers.
"We had the alumni game last year and 45 kids from our first two years came back from our first couple of seasons. They were all happy to be there and excited. It was great to have that relationship after a couple of years away," said Levesque.
Phil says seeing players come back to the arena and give him a handshake or a hug means a great deal to him.
It's that personal connection that's meant so much to the Levesque's over the six years they've put into the team.
"There's kids that are playing in Calgary right now that text us and say they had a really good time, kids that are playing Junior A we keep in contact with - that's huge for me, that's the whole program," said Phil Levesque.
Brenda says the goal for the Buccaneers organization has always been to help young men become better people.
It's not just about hockey.
There are six games left in the Bucs schedule, three of those are against the mid-island rivals the Oceanside Generals and there's one head to head against Campbell River.
Nanaimo enters the month two points ahead of the Storm for first place in the division and overall league standings.
Phil Levesque says he love to end his final year with the Bucs by raising a playoff championship banner, something Brenda notes has not been done by the organization - yet.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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