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Nanaimo Clippers’ new owner fires GM/coach Vandekamp

Nanaimo Clippers general manager and head coach Mike Vandekamp has been relieved of his duties.
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Nanaimo Clippers general manager and head coach Mike Vandekamp has been relieved of his duties.

New Clippers owner, Wes Mussio, released the news late Thursday on his Twitter account, stating: “Breaking news: sadly Mike Vandekamp has been replaced as GM and head coach of the Clippers by Darren Naylor due to irreconcilable differences with the management team. We wish Mike the best in his hockey coaching career — a real beauty and thanks!!!!”

Vandekamp spent the last seven years with the Clippers and had the team tied with the Victoria Grizzlies for second place in the Island Division with an 18-13-3-2 record. In 2014-15 he led the club to a runner-up finish in the B.C. Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup championship, losing in six games to the Penticton Vees, the last defeat in overtime.

The next season Vandekamp — who was not available for comment on Friday — took the Clippers to the three-team semifinal round-robin tournament along with eventual champions, the West Kelowna Warriors, and Chilliwack Chiefs.

“Tough to see a great coach leave @ClippersHockey today. Have worked for six and a half years with Mike Vandekamp and it was a great ride. As a media guy I could not have asked for better. I’m very thankful for having had the chance to work with ‘Vandy,’ ” Clippers play-by-play man Dan Marshall said on his Twitter account.

Vandekamp is no stranger to winning, having claimed a BCHL championship with Vernon in 2002-03, an Alberta Junior Hockey League title with the Grande Prairie Storm in 2008-09 and an Allan Cup crown (senior hockey) in his native Fort St. John in 2009-10. He also coached with the Merritt Centennials and Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. His record with the Clippers was 201-148-5-30.

“I was sad when I saw that, but I guess the writing was on the wall [with the new owner coming in],” Grizzlies head coach and GM Craig Didmon said.

“I like Mike and I liked competing against him. He was entertaining and hard to play against and that brings the best out of you.

“That’s the nature of the beast, unfortunately, but I’m sure he’ll find another spot somewhere. He’s a very good coach.”

Vandekamp is being replaced by Naylor, who was named the Clippers’ director of hockey operations when Mussio purchased the club in November. Naylor has guided the Delta Icehawks of the Pacific Junior B Hockey League to a 26-2-0-1 record this season.

Naylor takes over immediately and will be behind the bench when the Clippers return from their Christmas break on Dec. 29 in Powell River.