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Rangers will be looking for a new COO this year

After almost 20 years in the front office, Steve Bienkowski has announced he plans to retire in June
Steve Bienkowski
Photo credit: Kitchener Rangers

The Kitchener Rangers will be looking for a new chief operating officer later this year.

On Monday, Steve Bienkowski announced he plans to retire in June.

"It is something that I have been working closely with our President and Chairman of our Board, Shawn McKelvie on during the last eighteen months. The timing had to be right as I wanted to ensure that two specific items were realized before making this decision.

Firstly, that we have a talented and skilled staff in place, which we have on both the hockey and business management sides of our operations. It is these people that will contribute to our organization's future successes.

And secondly, that our finances were in good shape after the most recent spectator seating, video scoreboard and player facilities expansions in 2012. Our board trusted me to not take chances but instead a calculated risk with this expansion plan. It has provided the seating capacity for more Rangers fans to attend games while enjoying state of the art video board capabilities and equally important it provided our players and staff facilities that are in line with professional teams. Our organization has now navigated through this business plan to a point of increased financial strength and I am confident that the Rangers will have the resources soon to announce even further support for the community that has enthusiastically supported the Rangers for so many years," Bienkowski said in a release.

The native of Oshawa joined the Rangers as a player in 1979 and was a part of Kitchener's first OHL championship team in 1981.

After graduating Wilfrid Laurier University, he became a chartered accountant, then became the first COO of the Rangers in 2002.

Under Bienkowski's leadership, the team has increased its average attendance from 3,500 to 6,800, partnered with the city which have provided multiple facility and video board expansions. The Rangers have also created partnerships with the Kitchener Minor Hockey Association (Jr. Rangers and Lady Rangers programs), Cambridge Ice Hounds and the Kitchener Ice Pirates (inclusive hockey programs), as well as the KW Poppy Fund (Remembrance Day Jerseys).

He also played a lead role in putting together a bid for the Memorial Cup, which Kitchener hosted in 2008.

Bienkowski was twice named OHL Executive of the Year award, was awarded Kitchener-Waterloo's Citizen of the Year in 2011 and was added to the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in 2019.

"Although I have always tried to stay at arms length from our players, my hope over the years is that they understand that this was out of respect. Having been in their shoes, I remember the various pressures they face as teenagers growing up as elite athletes in the spotlight and, at times, in a high-pressure environment. My responsibility was not to become best friends, but instead provide an environment for them that respected them as individuals and provided them facilities and support that allowed them to become the best players, students, and - more importantly - people they could be." Bienkowski added.

The Rangers' board of directors will launch an immediate search for a new COO, who will also serve as an OHL governor.


Blair Adams

About the Author: Blair Adams

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