The new owner of the Nanaimo Clippers introduced himself to the community and made it clear that he wants to win.
The city’s junior A hockey team held a press conference Friday at Frank Crane Arena where Wes and Penny Mussio were officially announced as the new majority owners.
Wes Mussio, a Trail native, said he doesn’t plan to come in and “rock the boat,” necessarily, but he wants to see the team competing for an RBC Cup national championship within five years.
“What I want to do is take something that’s really good and move it on to the next level, and hopefully bring back some rings and some championships and some trophies,” he said.
The 53-year-old said he’s interested in owning the Clippers for the long term.
“Over time, I want to do more and more in hockey and less and less in business,” said the Vancouver-based lawyer and businessman.
Mussio told the News Bulletin that he signed an agreement with the league to keep the team in Nanaimo.
“The reason I signed that is because my view is Nanaimo’s one of the better hockey towns in British Columbia … You’d be a crazy person to move the team … I wanted to go to a market that I think is a good hockey market and Nanaimo’s a great one.”
Mussio also plans to open a branch of his law firm in Nanaimo and own a home in the Harbour City. He had owned the junior B Delta Ice Hawks, but had to give that up due to a Pacific Junior Hockey League rule preventing ownership in a competing league. Darren Naylor, head coach and general manager of that team, will join the Clippers as head of hockey operations, Mussio said, but Mike Vandekamp will be retained as coach and GM.
He said building back the fan base in Nanaimo will mean reinforcing the Clippers’ profile as a community-based team.
“If that happens, then suddenly people will show up and they’ll feel like they want to watch the team,” Mussio said. “The other thing is maintaining and ensuring a high-level product, so I plan to spend quite a bit more money on scouting and ensuring we have the top guys here.”
Naylor will continue as coach and GM of the Ice Hawks until season’s end, and says he’s already begun work with the Clippers.
“You have some ideas, ways you’ve done things in the past that have worked…” Naylor said. “It’s an evaluation process. We’re going to evaluate every aspect of this organization.”
Naylor said he’s scouted “high-end kids” and said announcements about player commitments could begin as soon as next week.
“With Wes, we’ve got a good owner here who’s going to really give us the resources to put the best team on the ice. He loves to win and he’ll spend the money to win. It’s going to be an organization that’s not cheap,” Naylor said.
The Mussio family will own 95 per cent of the hockey club, with team president David LeNeveu remaining a minority partner.
Mussio grew up in Trail, and along with his brother Russell, co-founded the popular Backroad Mapbook series in 1993.