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The History of the Esquimalt Buccaneers – Part Two: The Clippers Return



In Part One, we outlined the sequence of events in 1982 leading to the Nanaimo Clippers moving to Esquimalt. Going into the season, the Buccaneers assembled a strong team led by former NHL player Wayne Bianchin as head coach. The craziness began in their first game when the final score was overturned by the BCJHL president. Throughout the first half of the season, the high-scoring Bucs battled for third place in the Coastal Division. Although they enjoyed a winning record, the Bucs played in front of small crowds at the Esquimalt Sports Centre. The team faced serious financial problems at the start of 1983. Owner Reg Midgley sounded the alarm before Christmas announcing the Buccaneers had already accumulated $100,000 in debt.


In Part Two we chronicle the Buccaneer's demise, the rebirth of the Nanaimo Clippers and the legacy of the BCJHL in Esquimalt.


JANUARY 1983


The Buccaneers began the new year in third place with a 20-15 record, behind New Westminster and the league-leading Abbotsford Flyers. On January 7th, Esquimalt stayed two points ahead of fourth-place Burnaby with a 9-6 victory over Cowichan. Randy Taylor and Len Evans each scored twice for the Bucs. It was the first game for Ken Clement who joined the club after brief stops earlier in the season with the Victoria Cougars and Nanaimo Islanders. Clement is the only player to suit up for the Cougars, Islanders and Buccaneers.


On January 9th, two games took place at the Esquimalt Sports Centre with Burnaby picking up three points out of a possible four. The Blue Hawks defeated Esquimalt 8-5 in their regularly scheduled game and played through a scoreless overtime period of a game that originally took place on opening day in September.


The replay of the overtime resulted from a protest filed by Esquimalt over a game between the two clubs on September 26th. That contest wound up as a 7-7 tie at the end of regulation. When the Bucs scored in overtime, they thought they had won the game. To their amazement, the referee ruled the overtime is a 10-minute period and the game continued. The Blue Hawks came back with two more goals for the victory. BCJHL rules, however, state that overtime is to be sudden death. Commissioner Fred Page upheld Esquimalt's protest and ruled the overtime be replayed. After the scoreless overtime, the two teams played their regularly scheduled game.




The Bucs suffered a major loss on January 10th when their best defenseman, Rob Kivell, left the team to join the Victoria Cougars. He declined previous offers to join the WHL since playing for a major junior league team would jeopardize any hope of a U.S. college scholarship. Victoria pursued Kivell since the beginning of the season and recently acquired his WHL rights from Lethbridge. Kivell decided to leave Esquimalt when Cougars co-owner Jim Hartsborne offered an assured education package at the University of Victoria. (1)


The circumstances surrounding Kivell’s departure did not sit well with owner Reg Midgley who accused the Cougars of tampering on January 9th, just before Kivell left the Buccaneers.


“The Cougars have been talking to Kivell without our permission. They’ve had him down at their office without us knowing. We’re really mad and annoyed with them after we’ve co-operated with them all year. As far I’m concerned, they’re not doing him (Kivell) any favors. They’re making him all these rainbow promises.” (2)

The first place Abbotsford Flyers came to town on January 24th and defeated Esquimalt 6-2. The Bucs potent offence was stymied by the outstanding goaltending of Abbotsford’s Scott Bradley. That season, Bradley also played one game for the Victoria Cougars. He went on to a long career with the Boston Bruins as their Director of Player Personnel/Assistant General Manager. The win boosted the Flyers' record to 37 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie. With the loss, Esquimalt fell four points behind third-place Burnaby.



Brett Hull made his only Victoria appearance on January 16 when the Penticton Knights defeated Esquimalt 8-5. Hull put on a show with two goals and three assists. After the game, Midgley commented on Hull’s performance by saying “It’s good to see they’re still producing real hockey players” (3). Hull would go on to score 104 points for Penticton but was not selected in the 1983 NHL draft. The next season he set a BCJHL scoring record with 188 points and was drafted by the Calgary Flames.


After Rob Kivell’s departure, Garry Matson stepped up as a leader on defence. He averaged over a point a game and provided muscle on the back end. In 1980-81, Matson attended the Victoria Cougars training camp and played for the Kerry Park Islanders of the South Vancouver Island Hockey League.


In January, Garry Matson, Darrell Pederson, and Len Evans were named to the BCJHL Coastal Division All-Star team. The annual All-Star game took place in Kelowna with the Coastal Division winning 5-3 over the Interior All-Stars



The heavily weighted schedule saw the Bucs facing the Cowichan Capitals more than any other team. The Island rivalry was lopsided in favour of Esquimalt. The Bucs downed the Capitals 6-2 on January 26th for their 11th victory in a row over Cowichan. Brian Silverson scored a pair, with Al Loring turning aside 42 shots. Darryl Reaugh made 31 saves in net for the Capitals. The next season, Reaugh joined the Kamloops Blazers and was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the NHL entry draft.


Reg Midgley was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack at the end of January. He made a full recovery, but in the meantime, Stu Lawrie stepped in and took over the day-to-day operations.


THE FINAL GAME IN ESQUIMALT


On January 30th, Gerry Matson and Dale Brisco each had three goals and three assists as the Bucs trounced the Shushwap Totems 8-3. Karl Landry turned in an outstanding performance between the pipes with 34 saves. It turned out to be the Buccaneers' last game in Esquimalt, with only about 200 fans attending. Lawrie admitted afterwards that playing opposite of the NFL Super Bowl was “poor timing”


RETURNING TO NANAIMO


On February 1, 1983, the Bucs announced a decision that seemed inevitable – they’re returning to Nanaimo. The only surprising part is the move was effective immediately. After struggling with poor crowds all year, they returned to Nanaimo with five games left in the season. The club abandoned the Buccaneers' name and immediately reverted back to the Nanaimo Clippers.


Esquimalt was scheduled to play New Westminster the next night at the Sports Centre, but that game shifted to Nanaimo’s Civic Arena. Lawrie said the next few games have been moved to Nanaimo, and the return becomes permanent “when we can a release of our contract” with the Esquimalt Sports Centre. The team remained headquartered in Esquimalt for the rest of the season. They continued to practice in Esquimalt and took the bus to Nanaimo for home games. (4)


The Buccaneers' final record in Esquimalt – 26 wins, 20 losses and one tie in forty-seven games.



1982/83 BCJHL PLAYOFFS


The resurrected Nanaimo Clippers went 4-5 in their last nine games to finish third in the Coastal Division (30-25-1), one point ahead of Burnaby. In the opening round of the playoffs, Nanaimo faced the second-place New Westminster Royals. In the first game, the Clippers jumped out to the early advantage with a 5-3 victory over New Westminster at Queens Park Arena. The Bruins came back the next night and tied the series with a 5-4 win. The Royals held a 5-1 lead after two periods, but the Clippers stormed back with markers by Dale Brisco and a pair by Al Johnston to make it close.


The series moved to Nanaimo for games three and four with each team picking up a win. The two clubs returned to Queens Park Arena for the pivotal game five. New Westminster came out strong as they overpowered Nanaimo for an 11-6 victory to take a commanding three games to two lead. Former Fuller Lake Flyer Len Meyers was the star of the game with five goals for New Westminster.


In game six, the Royals came from behind to defeat Nanaimo 6-5 in overtime. The Clippers jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period, with the teams tied 5-5 after the second and a scoreless third. Len Meyers and Cliff Ronning each scored twice for the Royals. Darrel Pederson, with two, Ken Clement, Randy Taylor and Gary Matson counted Nanaimo’s goals. The loss eliminated the Clippers from the playoffs with New Westminster taking the best-of-seven series 4-2.


New Westminster advanced to the Coastal Division final, where they lost to the Abbotsford Flyers in six games. The first-place Flyers went on to capture the BCJHL championship.


AFTERMATH


The next season, the Clippers did not have to worry about competition. The Nanaimo Islanders were sold and left town after only one year in the Hub City. The franchise transferred to the Lower Mainland and became the second incarnation of the New Westminster Bruins. Al Patterson, who coached the New Westminster Royals, took over as GM/coach for the Bruins. After two years in New Westminster, Patterson became head coach of the Victoria Cougars in 1985. He remained with the team as their GM until 1989.


The Nanaimo Clippers went back to Frank Crane Arena in 1984/85 but returned to their original home at the Nanaimo Civic Arena in 1985/86. They remained there for eight years before moving permanently to Frank Crane for the 1993/94 campaign. Since returning to Nanaimo in 1983, the Clippers have consistently been one of the top BCHL franchises in terms of attendance and victories. They captured the BCHL championship (Fred Page Cup) in 2004 and 2007.




After leaving the Buccaneers, Rob Kivell spent the next two and a half seasons with the Victoria Cougars. The defenseman emerged as a team leader putting up huge numbers with 162 points in 144 games. In 1983, the Calgary Flames selected Kivell in the 7th round of the NHL entry draft. Rob Kivell is the only member of the Esquimalt Buccaneers drafted by an NHL team.


As a sixteen-year-old rookie defenseman, Rod Summers picked up 8 points in 41 games for the Buccaneers-Clippers. In 1985/86, Summers joined the Penticton Knights for his final year in the BCJHL. The Knights became the first BCJHL team to win the Centennial Cup (Junior A National Championship) and later inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame. Summers went on to four years at the University of Denver, where he is second in school history in all-time games played.


Two Buccaneers coached in the BCHL. Kent Lewis played three games for the Buccaneers and 91 games for the Victoria Cougars between 1984 and 1987. After his playing career, he began a long tenure as the GM/Coach of the Powell River Kings.


Forward Bill Hardy scored 24 points in 50 games for Buccaneers/Clippers in 1982/83 and spent the next three seasons with the Clippers. He ended his BCJHL career helping the Richmond Sockeyes capture the Centennial Cup in 1987. He later went on to coach the Nanaimo Clippers in the mid-1990s. His son, Owen Hardy, played with the Clippers and spent five years in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants and Moose Jaw Warriors.


Wayne Bianchin coached the Clippers in 1983/84 finishing with a 30-19-1 record. After that season, he moved into the financial sector but continued coaching youth hockey in Nanaimo. In 2015, Bianchin was inducted into the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame. His son, Jordan Bianchin, played for the Clippers in 1998/99.



Alton Davis was a two-sport athlete in hockey and lacrosse. Before joining the Buccaneers, he spent the summer playing lacrosse for the Victoria-Esquimalt Legion (now the Victoria Junior Shamrocks). Davis had a strong season and won the team's Rookie of the Year award. The Legion captured the 1982 Western Canada Junior “A” Championship and played for the Minto Cup (the Canadian championship) at the Esquimalt Sports Centre. After the Minto Cup, he laced up his skates and joined the Buccaneers. As a forward, Davis scored 35 points in 49 games. He went on to a long career with the Victoria Shamrocks spanning three decades, winning multiple Mann Cup Championships.


Len Evans was the top scorer for the 1982/83 Buccaneers-Clippers with 87 points. The next year he attended the Victoria Cougars training camp and returned to the Clippers for his third season. He only appeared in 38 games in 1983/84 but finished second in team scoring with 87 points. Tragically, Evans died in May 1984 when his car went out of control on the Island Highway and struck a power pole. Teammates Dale Brisco and Stacey Nickel were in the car but escaped serious injury. The Nanaimo Clippers retired Evans jersey number twelve, and the Powell River Minor Hockey Association set up a scholarship in his name.


CONCLUSION


Reg Midgley put together an exciting high scoring Buccaneers team and had a strong passion for junior hockey.


I do a lot of things in sports (Bucs, Shamrock lacrosse general manager and Western Speedway manager) but my strongest feelings are for these (junior hockey) kids because you get a chance to watch them develop and grow on and off the ice. You get so involved with them. Every junior operator does. It’s more of a family atmosphere than any of my other sports involvements. (5)

Unfortunately for Midgley, fans were only interested in the Cougars. Ownership misread the Victoria market. They could not find a way to generate any excitement for Junior A hockey. The Buccaneers also scheduled most of their games on Sunday afternoons, which has never been a big draw for hockey in Victoria. By December 1982, it seemed like ownership had given up on Esquimalt. The Buccaneers placed regularly newspaper advertisements when the season began, but everything stopped after a few months.


The two Buccaneer games that shifted from Esquimalt to Nanaimo in December served as a test before making the permanent move. Those two Nanaimo games received higher attendance than any previous home game in Esquimalt.


In 1984, Midgley and Gordon Rendle sold the Nanaimo Clippers for an estimated price of $45,000. The new owner, Doug Harding, previously coached the Nanaimo Islanders for half a season in 1982/83.


In the 1980s and early 1990s, the BCJHL made numerous attempts to establish a team in Greater Victoria. The Buccaneers were followed by the Sidney Capitals (1984-1986), Juan de Fuca Whalers (1986-1988) and the Victoria Warriors (1990-1993). Unlike the Buccaneers, the Capitals, Whalers and Warriors never had a winning season.


The hockey landscape changed in 1994 when the Victoria Cougars moved to Prince George. The Victoria Salsa were founded shortly after the Cougars left and have been a part of the Greater Victoria hockey scene ever since.



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NOTES


(1) “Cougars go after Kivell” January 9, 1983 (Page 9 of 52) Publication info: Times Colonist (1980-2010); Victoria, British Columbia [Victoria, British Columbia]09 Jan 1983: 9.


(2) “Now and ‘future’ look good for Cougars” Ernie Fedoruk, January 11, 1983 (Page 11 of 36). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1983 Jan 11(24):11.


(3) “Young Hull performs well to help defeat Buccaneers” (1) January 17, 1983 (Page 13 of 42). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1983 Jan 17(29):13.


(4) “Bucs returning to Nanaimo” February 2, 1983 (Page 13 of 44). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1983 Feb 02(43):13.


(5) “Tier two calibre great but attendance dismal” Cleve Dheensaw October 15, 1982 (Page 10 of 57). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1982 Oct 15(261):10.

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