A corner stone for the team for past 18 years, Rangers Chief Operating Officer & Governor Steve Bienkowski has decided to retire this June.
Bienkowski spent his only year playing in the OHL as a netminder for the Rangers in 1981. That year, the team won its first OHL title.
He joined the Rangers front office in 2002 and has since developed the organization into one of the most competitive teams in the Ontario Hockey League.
Under Bienkowski’s tenure, a large renovation in the rink was achieved in 2012 that saw Rangers average attendance nearly double. Many partnerships were also made with local youth hockey programs such as the Jr. and Lady Rangers as well as inclusive programs such as the Kitchener Ice Pirates.
Longtime Rangers fans like Melissa Lang have noticed the changes Bienkowski has made and are thrilled with the state of the team.
“From the seating and scoreboards to the overall atmosphere, the improvements make it feel like a real NHL game,” said the Kitchener resident.
For his dedication and success shown over the years, Bienkowski has been awarded twice as OHL’s Executive of the Year as well as KW’s Citizen of the Year award in 2011. To top it off, Bienkowski was inducted into the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in 2019.
“Steve has brought long term stability to the organization and has built the Rangers into a model franchise in junior hockey,” says Head Coach and General Manager Mike McKenzie in an interview. “He has also connected the hockey team deeply into the community over the years.”
Bienkowski’s legacy and accolades leave a giant hole in the organization. However, McKenzie is confident the team will fill that role and continue their success.
“Losing Steve will be a big loss to the organization but at some point, every organization must go through changes,” adds McKenzie. “Steve has given so much time and effort to the Rangers and has been a huge part of the organizations success, but I trust the new person that will be chosen will be a great fit and keep the team headed in the right direction and continue to build on what Steve has put in place.”
Bienkowski said he decided it would be time to retire once two goals he had made for himself were achieved.
Building the team to a competitive state while having exceptional staff to pass the baton too and adjusting team funds and finances to assure the organization is in a prosperous financial state after the major 2012 renovations.