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Canucks co-owner Aquilini defends decision to fire Crawford

The co-owner of the Vancouver Canucks says he's not entirely responsible for the dismissal of head coach Marc Crawford after the team missed the National Hockey League playoffs.

Francesco Aquilini told a local radio station the perception he ordered the firing last month was incorrect and that general manager Dave Nonis made the decision.

"This is something that Dave Nonis recommended -- he suggested it," Aquilini said yesterday on Mojo Radio.

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Aquilini holds a 50-per-cent share in the franchise after making the purchase in November of 2004 from John McCaw of Seattle. McCaw had been majority owner since November of 1996.

"As a management team, John McCaw and myself, we were all behind it," Aquilini said of replacing the coach.

"Some changes have to be made. You're going to see more changes coming."

Nonis has not appointed a head coach, but indicated one will be in place before the NHL entry draft in Vancouver on June 24. Nonis has contended he alone decided to replace Crawford.

A leading candidate to become the Canucks' next coach is Alain Vigneault, who this season handled the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, the top Vancouver affiliate.

Aquilini defended the job done by Nonis in the 2005-06 season, when the Canucks lost their No. 1 netminder, Dan Cloutier, early to injury and had several top-end defencemen miss considerable time because of injuries.

"I think Dave did a great job," Aquilini said. "We have to make some changes, but at the end of the day, it's the players on the ice.

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"I'm probably the biggest hockey fan in town. I'm happy when we win and I'm mad when we lose. It's not good enough just to have a good team. We have to have a winning team."

McCaw and the Aquilini family will determine whether the general manager receives a contract extension, Aquilini indicated. It's believed Nonis has one year remaining on his contract.

Aquilini is the acting president and chief executive officer of the Canucks, a position he wants filled, perhaps before next season begins.

The Canucks have not had a president since Nonis took over from general manager Brian Burke, who held the titles of president and general manager.

Dave Cobb was the acting president until he left the club for a position with the organizing committee for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.

It's understood Aquilini has talked with Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson about the Vancouver presidency.

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One factor that could be delaying a decision is a pending lawsuit involving Aquilini.

Vancouver businessmen Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie filed a statement of claim in B.C. Supreme Court last year alleging McCaw and Aquilini acted in bad faith and disregarded legal agreements when they brokered their purchase deal.

They claim Aquilini was once part of their group attempt to purchase ownership of the NHL franchise from the McCaw-controlled Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment.

Aquilini received league approval of his purchase in March of 2005, according to his biographical entry in the Canucks' media guide.

He is described as the managing director of a successful family business, Aquilini Investment Group, mostly involved in real-estate holdings and development.

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