Two Nanaimo Clippers coaches suspended amid an investigation by the BC Hockey League can resume their duties after a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted them a temporary injunction.
Clippers head coach and general manager Darren Naylor and associate coach Colin Birkas were placed on temporary administrative leave as the league reviewed “allegations of Code of Conduct breaches,” according to a Feb. 7 email from the BCHL addressed to Clippers players.
The league said it has appointed an independent investigator to review the unspecified allegations.
“At this time, the allegations are allegations only; no findings have been made against the Coaches,” the BCHL said, calling the suspensions “regrettable” for the effect they would have on players during the season.
A notice of civil claim was filed in response by Clippers Hockey Limited Partnership, Naylor and Birkas, arguing that the league acted “erroneously and in a high-handed manner” in issuing the suspensions when no allegations have been proven, irreparably damaging the coaches’ reputations and putting the team’s season in jeopardy because there are no alternate coaches to take over.
The lawsuit indicates that the Nanaimo Clippers organization conducted its own internal investigation into the allegations after being alerted to the BCHL investigation at the start of the season in October 2021 and found no wrongdoing.
“The investigation of the Clippers found no wrongdoings by the coaches and the results of the investigation were provided to the BCHL,” it reads.
The coaches and team argued that the complainants who first brought forward the allegations were mostly disgruntled former employees and former billet parents “who have significant motivation to lie, exaggerate and attack without evidence in support as they had a falling out with the coaches before leaving the Clippers organizations.”
On Thursday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge issued a temporary injunction restraining the BCHL from suspending Naylor and Birkas until Feb. 18, at which point they can apply to extend the injunction.
The suit also seeks damages associated with loss of revenue due to the suspension as well as reputational harm.
It also asks for a declaration that the BCHL must produce the complainants’ written submissions to the league and that the BCHL investigators who issued the suspension be fired and a new independent investigator be appointed.
The BCHL issued a statement on investigation Friday evening, confirming it has been conducting and independent investigation of Naylor and Birkas and that the coaches were placed on leave pending its conclusion.
“The administrative leaves were precautionary and procedural as no determinations have been made at this time,” the league said in a statement, adding it would be applying to have the judge’s injunction 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,” it said.
A spokesman for the Nanaimo Clippers had no comment on the suspensions when contacted.