Despite a B.C. Supreme Court judge temporarily allowing them to continue coaching, Nanaimo Clippers’ bench bosses are sidelined as the B.C. Hockey League investigates whether they violated conduct rules.
In a social media post Friday, Feb. 11, owner Wes Mussio announced that Darren Naylor and Colin Birkas, respective head and associate coach, have been placed on temporary leave to allow for the “BCHL to complete their internal investigation process” so that there won’t be any “unnecessary distractions to the players during the stretch drive of the season.”
According to court documents, the league notified the junior A hockey team on Feb. 7 that Naylor and Birkas were suspended indefinitely, with no “advance notice.” After the team filed an application, Judge Jasmin Ahmad granted an injunction Feb. 10, preventing the league from suspending the two until Feb. 18, with an allowance to apply for an extension.
The Clippers were first notified of league’s investigation on Oct. 8, the first game of the regular season, court documents said. In turn, the Clippers conducted their own investigation, which found Naylor and Birkas had done nothing wrong, and the findings were forwarded to the league.
The exact nature of the reasons for the suspensions were not specified in court filings, but they did state the BCHL told the team that after “complainants” and “additional witnesses” were interviewed, “there are credible allegations that you breached the BCHL’s code of conduct. These allegations include conduct that related to player safety and well-being.”
In an e-mailed statement to the News Bulletin, the BCHL confirmed it was investigating Naylor and Birkas “for alleged code of conduct breaches.”
This week, the BCHL placed the coaches on temporary administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation. The administrative leaves were precautionary and procedural as no determinations have been made at this time, the BCHL said.
The BCHL said the team applied for the court injunction without notification and the league will make an application “to have the order set aside.”
“As the investigation is ongoing, and as the allegations against the coaches have not been proven, the BCHL will not be commenting further at this time,” the statement read.
The team currently stands second in the Coastal division, and sixth in the BCHL overall, with a record of 24-13-1-1.
– files from Greg Sakaki