Kitchener Rangers head coach Troy Smith
The Kitchener Rangers stayed local on Wednesday as they announced the promotion of Troy Smith as the team's new head coach and Murray Hiebert as their new general manager.
Almost immediately after head coach and GM Steve Spott resigned to take a job as the head coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies, the search for his replacement was on in Kitchener. Team COO and governor Steve Bienkowski noted that hiring people familiar with the culture of the Rangers would be of the highest importance and Wednesday's announcement definitely fills that requirement.
Smith, 34, had previously been an assistant coach with the Rangers, working under both Spott and current NHL coach Pete DeBoer. Prior to that he had played for the pair of coaches with the Detroit/Plymouth Whalers.
"It's a bit surreal and very humbling," said Smith after the announcement. "When you work for this organization you realize how special it is and the fact that I am following in the footsteps of my two mentors (Spott and DeBoer), I couldn't be happier."
Hiebert has been with the Rangers since 2001 and most recently served as the director of scouting for the team. Like Smith, the former teacher, had worked with both Spott and DeBoer as a scout in Plymouth.
Oddly enough it was Hiebert who had first scouted Smith as a player with the Whalers.
"He's a great guy," said Smith of Hiebert. "When I came here (to Kitchener in 2006) he really looked after me early on making sure I was watching the right games and scouting the right spots. He's a very caring individual and he works extremely hard. He's detailed and very passionate about his job.
"I'm very happy to work with Murray."
This will be Smith's first full-time head coaching job in the OHL, through he has experience having already run Team Ontario at the 2012 and 2013 under-17 world hockey challenge tournament.
The only new hire for the team was the naming of former NHLer Mike Van Ryn as an assistant coach to handle the defence. Van Ryn had been an assistant coach with the AHL's Houston Aeros, but prior to that had worked in the OHL as an assistant coach with the Niagara IceDogs.
Smith says he had input on the hiring, having been familiar with Van Ryn from Niagara and other hockey ventures. Assistant coach Mike McKenzie -- who previously had acted as the team's eye in the sky - will also join Smith and Van Ryn on the bench. The coaching position previously held by assistant Paul Fixter, now the head coach of the Sudbury Wolves, will not be filled.
"We're just going to have Murray as the GM and three coaches," said Smith. "We think with the three of us coaching, we can get the job done."
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