The Nanaimo Clippers will set sail in a new direction, away from Bill Bestwick.
The team’s coach and general manager for the past 11 seasons was fired from those positions, the B.C. Hockey League club announced Monday.
Former Vernon Viper head coach Mike Vandekamp assumes the roles of coach, GM and director of hockey operations.
“(After) three years of first- or second-round exits, we thought that if we wanted to get back to the top, (we needed) to get someone in here with new energy,” said Ken Wagner, Clippers governor. “It was time for a change.”
Added new Clippers’ part-owner Kelly Hrudey: “Mike has won a championship trophy in three different leagues: the BCHL, AJHL and most recently the Allan Cup.”
Wagner said he has offered Bestwick an “alternate governor/governor” role that has not yet been accepted or declined.
The governor was asked if his working relationship with Bestwick deteriorated this past season and said the two had disagreements, as any business partners would have.
“This decision had nothing to do with our relationship,” Wagner said. “This was a hockey decision based on two things: results, and the fact that we wanted to set the direction moving forward.”
Vandekamp was expected at work at the Clippers’ office Tuesday. He officially resigned his position as coach and GM of Alberta’s Grande Prairie Storm Monday.
“I am very excited to be joining the Nanaimo Clippers organization and returning to the BCHL,” said Vandekamp, in a BCHL press release. “I am looking forward to working with the Clippers ownership, staff, and players to ice a team that the whole city of Nanaimo will be proud of. My family and I are looking forward to calling Nanaimo home and we can’t wait to get started.”
Vandekamp, who coached the Vipers when they first moved into the Multiplex in 2001, was behind the Grande Prairie bench when Vernon swept the Storm in the Doyle Cup Championship in 2009.
He was the Clippers’ co-coach for a short stint during the off-season in 2005 before accepting a coaching job in major junior with the Prince George Cougars. This time Wagner has received assurances from Vandekamp that he considers his new job with the Clippers a long-term commitment.
“I’ve got a strong relationship with Mike. It goes back a long time. He’s won at every level,” Wagner said. “He’s a well-connected guy in the game of hockey and he’s going to help us get back to the top, we believe, in a quick and orderly fashion.”