Steve Spott leaves Kitchener Rangers for professional ranks
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013 4:08PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 4, 2013 1:20PM EDT
Steve Spott has been called up to professional hockey.
The head coach and general manager of the Kitchener Rangers for the past five seasons has resigned from the team and accepted the head coaching position of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
The Marlies are the top farm team for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s been 12 years and I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of the Rangers organization and the Kitchener-Waterloo community,” Spott tells CTV.
Spott came to Kitchener in 2001 as an assistant to Peter DeBoer.
When DeBoer became head coach of the NHL’s Florida Panthers in 2008, Spott was promoted to the top job behind Kitchener’s bench.
In five years, Spott guided the Rangers to four playoff appearances, including two trips to the third round.
Spott says a number of his most cherished memories from Kitchener come from when he was DeBoer’s assistant, including the 2003 Memorial Cup championship and the 2008 OHL Championship.
“Having your name on the Memorial Cup is something that is very special,” he says.
More recent highlights include Ben Fanelli’s return to hockey after a devastating injury and watching Gabriel Landeskog and Jeff Skinner grow into NHL superstars.
And while it can’t be pinpointed to any one moment, Spott also speaks highly of how the Kitchener Rangers have become one of the Canadian Hockey League’s premier franchises over the past decade-plus.
“We really tried to create an environment where it becomes a boutique franchise for players to play. I think we’ve done that,” he says.
“There’s a great framework now for players to come and play in this tremendous city in front of these tremendous fans.”
Former players say they’ll remember Spott as a coach who could be tough when necessary and friendly when necessary.
“He’s just trying to get you ready for the next level. That’s what he tried to do for us each and every day,” said Matt Puempel, who played under Spott for one season.
Spott also coached Canada’s entry at last year’s World Junior Hockey Championship.
Rangers chief operating officer Steve Bienkowski says the search for Spott’s replacement will begin immediately – he received dozens of emails from interested parties in the first couple hours after Spott’s new job was made public – but the team will look for the best option rather than the first one that presents itself.
Bienkowski also says the team may look at splitting up Spott’s head coach and general manager duties among two people.
“I see us probably going the route of two people. If that’s the case, obviously we’ll look at the general manager position first,” he says.
Spott’s replacement or replacements will be in place in time for the new season, Bienkowski says.
The OHL coaching carousel continued to spin Wednesday with the announcement that Paul Fixter would become head coach of the Sudbury Wolves after about two weeks on the job.
Fixter, a Kitchener native, had been the Rangers' associate coach and assistant general manager for five seasons, but left in June to become assistant coach in Sudbury.
Fixter was slated to work under Trent Cull, a former assistant coach with the Guelph Storm, but was promoted to the top job after Cull accepted an assistant coach position with the AHL's Syracuse Crunch.