A month after he was fired as coach of the Nanaimo Clippers, Mike Vandekamp isn’t sure about his coaching future, or whether it will even include junior hockey.
Coaching opportunities aren’t out there at this stage of a season, so Vandekamp is staying involved in other ways, helping out, as he has in the past, with the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association.
“I want to continue to volunteer my time with that, mostly coach mentorship stuff,” he said, adding he anticipates helping coaches of competitive-level teams prepare for playoffs. “That’s something that keeps a guy a little bit involved and down at the rink.”
Vandekamp said his firing Dec. 21 wasn’t expected, as there hadn’t been a particular incident or blowup that seemed to lead to it. He’d hardly spoken to Wes Mussio since the new owner took over six weeks prior and Vandekamp said in his mind, there was never any agenda set out that hadn’t been followed.
“I don’t think there was ever a specific incident that led to this, or specific animosity or any disrespect shown,” Vandekamp said. “We were operating the hockey team the way we’ve always operated the hockey team.”
Dustin Donaghy, ex-assistant coach of the Clippers, said he was fired the following afternoon and said it was not a “pretty mutual” parting, as it has been presented. Donaghy says he wanted to stay on as assistant coach and said he isn’t in a position to be out of work.
“I am unemployed and not being able to provide for my family, so I am doing the opposite of what a man should do for his family,” he said.
Donaghy has reached out to some veterans on the Clippers and asked them to communicate to teammates that he had been fired and hadn’t quit on them.
“As a coach, you don’t just leave your team,” he said, adding he wanted players, their parents and the community to know that “I wanted to coach that team, I wanted to finish this year out and I wasn’t given that opportunity.”
As for his coaching future, he’ll have to wait for other chips to fall.
“You have no idea,” Donaghy said. “You don’t know if an organization is happy with their current staff, you never know if someone’s going to move up, it’s really a waiting game.”
As for Vandekamp, he said he’s facing “interesting life decisions” because he and his wife and children have lived in Nanaimo for almost seven years, and they want to continue to live in a city that has become their home.
But Nanaimo only has one junior A hockey head coaching job.
“I’m kind of stuck in a tough spot that way and probably in a bigger sense, need to decide whether this is a career path that a person wants to continue down or not. That’s part of it, too,” he said.
Vandekamp said more than anything else, he wants to express his thanks to the community and all those who supported the hockey team in so many different ways.
“I’m thankful for my time here,” he said. “We had some unbelievable success and we also were currently having some pretty good success and were pretty excited about what the team was doing.”