Mmm Mmm bad? Campbell departs the Nanaimo Clippers


Tali Campbell lived out one of his childhood dreams working for his hometown team, the Nanaimo Clippers.

After just under a year as the organization’s general manager and more than a year and a half with the team, Campbell made the decision to step down earlier a mere few days before the BCHL club was set to open its extended training camp.

(Photo credit: Nanaimo Clippers)

Campbell was a big part of the Clippers revival over the last two seasons, helping turnaround a franchise that was losing money while also losing touch with its community. In an interview with Clippers play-by-play voice Dan Marshall, Campbell noted the decision came with a lot of mixed emotions.

“I knew growing up that I wasn’t going to be playing hockey at a high level so I decided to take this path and I idolized people like Bill Bestwick and everything he did at the Frank Crane Arena while I was growing up and going ‘Wow, I would like to have the honour of working in a similar role someday.’ I had the chance to work with Bill for a little bit and then Penny and Wes Mussio brought me on and what a dream come true.”

“What a two years it has been, we took over a team that was losing quite a bit of money on the corporate side and seasons tickets, and we kind of lost touch with our fans. We like to think we have climbed mountains with our volunteers, sponsors, and fans, by no means are we done climbing the mountain but you have to look out for yourself sometimes.”

Campbell noted there are simply too many memorable moments to look back on to just select one or two notable highlights.

“There are so many of them, from seeing our season ticket base continuing to climb to hugging our fans inside the Frank Crane Arena, the high fives at the end of the game, two sold-out crowds and seeing Matt Irwin being put up in the wall of honour was a really special moment. I grew up watching Matt play in a Clippers jersey, so there are so many special moments I will never forget.”

“It brings a tear to my eye that this chapter is over, but it is a tear with a smile.”

Where do the Clippers go from here?

Clippers owner Wes Mussio described the move as bittersweet given Campbell’s desire and work ethic.

“It was pretty evident to me that Tali Campbell, who is such an ambitious and hard working young man, that there was a limited window of opportunity for him to be the Clippers general manager before moving on to bigger and better things. With the uncertainty surrounding hockey this year, it was a tough place to be and possibly move on to something a little more stable.”

While Campbell has agreed to stay on with Nanaimo until a replacement is found, Mussio is already making plans to ramp up the search for the team’s next general manager.

“We will be rolling out an ad campaign to get the next great individual because when you have an awesome employee leave your company, you always want to advance to where he was, so there is an opportunity to advance the team even further than Tali had.”

“What we want to do is find someone that is completely focused on the business end because with Colin Birkas, Darren Naylor, and myself we have a pretty good team when it comes to the hockey operations. We need to solidify the business operations due to COVID-19 and the government regulations and to retool the business model so we can survive in the years to come.”

Training camp set to open

Mussio added the team is gearing up for its extended training camp, which will see 30 players attend. While the Clippers owner is excited to see the players back on the ice, a few hiccups have been endured along the way.

“The one glitch here so far is the US players where the borders are banning them from coming in because they are deemed non-essential travellers, which in my mind is absolutely ludicrous but nonetheless, that’s our glitch right now, being unable to get some of the American players in that we wanted.”

Photo credit: Nanaimo Clippers

“The plan is to run with a big compliment of players and the rationale behind it is to develop players to get to the next level and with junior B and other teams up in the air, we’re trying to bring in as many players as possible to give them that experience when things like that will be at a premium.”

Like all junior hockey teams, roster turnover is inevitable, however how teams fill in those gaps during the offseason can mean all the difference in the world between staying in the top-tier of the BCHL or sliding down the standings.

Mussio is of the belief the Clippers can follow the lead of elite clubs such as the Penticton Vees who are seemingly among the Fred Page Cup favourites on a yearly basis.

“I honestly believe we have a team that is pretty equal to last year. If we are allowed to get all of our players in (including from the United States), and we may still since government policies change, if we have them all in, we should be in the top three in the league because we have really stacked our team this year.”

“But, COVID-19 has put a bit of a wrench into things but we’ll carry on. Darren Naylor has done a good job at finding players so we should be ok.”