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Nanaimo Clippers Head Coach Colin Birkas Under Investigation Again

Image courtesy of the Nanaimo Clippers

Nanaimo Clippers Head Coach Colin Birkas Under Investigation Again

The Nanaimo Clippers will be without head coach and general manager Colin Birkas for the foreseeable future as the 2022-23 British Columbia Hockey League regular season comes to a close.

With just four games remaining before the playoffs, the Clippers announced on Friday afternoon that Birkas has been temporarily suspended with associate coach Bob Beatty and assistant coach Tyler Gow taking over duties for the interim.

“The Nanaimo Clippers organization has been notified that, pending the completion of a third-party investigation into complaints filed under Hockey Canada’s Discipline and Complaints Policy, head coach and general manager Colin Birkas has been temporarily suspended from his duties with the Nanaimo Clippers,” the Clippers shared in a social media post.

“The Clippers organization respects the importance of following the process outlined by authorities. It also prioritizes player safety and player experience,” the statement continued. “While Mr. Birkas denies the allegations made against him, the Clippers are cooperating with the investigation and working diligently to help resolve this matter expeditiously.”

No stranger to Hockey Canada’s disciplinary committee, Birkas will sit out until a decision has been made.

This news comes following what has been a 13-month, third-party investigation into alleged actions by Birkas that go against the BCHL’s coaches code of conduct. The Clippers released a document back in February of 2022 responding to the League’s mandated ban, stating that the team did a thorough investigation of its coaching staff and came to the conclusion that it did not participate in any hazing, sexual misconduct or hate speech. They rallied to have their coaches’ suspensions lifted.

According to earlier reports, an incident involving Birkas (who was an assistant at the time) and former Clippers head coach Darren Naylor saw the two placed on leave. Naylor was later removed from the organization, while Birkas was handed a ‘long-term’ extension while taking over as head coach and GM. Naylor went on to sign with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzard. He never made the trek and the Blizzard chose to go a different direction after learning he would not be reinstated by Hockey Canada.

After the Clippers successfully argued for an injunction on his suspension, Birkas took over the team just prior to the postseason and led the Clippers to the final, which they lost to the Penticton Vees.

As things would have it, the storyline went full-circle on Friday, a full 13 months later. The team’s announcement came just hours before Nanaimo (35-12-3) was set to take on the Vees in what was expected to be one of the best matchups of the season, between the league’s top-two teams. Penticton ended up scorching the Birkas-less Clippers 9-2.

This is not Birkas’ first suspension either. He had previously been suspended by Hockey Canada on multiple occasions during his time in the OJHL. His fourth suspension from the league lasted over a full season, and was thanks to the keen ear of an on-ice official, who distinctly heard Birkas deliberately instructing one of his players to injure an opponent.

Despite his team’s attempts to clear his name, Birkas will now watch from the sidelines as his club plays the second and third games of a three-game-in-three-night road trip, before finishing off the 2022-23 season on the road in Victoria.

It is safe to say that Birkas’ days as head coach in Nanaimo may very well be numbered.

As his front office staff nicely put, “No further comment will be made until this matter is resolved.”

Whenever that is…

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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