Last season marked number 50 for the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers. Over these 50 years, the team has seen over 140 players graduate to the National Hockey League. Current players such as Mike Richards and Gabriel Landeskog and hall of famers Paul Coffey, and Larry Robinson prove that Kitchener is a breeding ground for talent.
The Rangers started off in Guelph when a businessman by the name of Eugene George was instructed by the New York Rangers about a possible move to the Kitchener where junior hockey was flourishing. In 1963, the Kitchener Rangers were founded and started playing out of the Kitchener Auditorium.
In 1981, the Rangers were coached by Cornwall’s own (yay for hometowns!) Orval Tessier and led by familiar names such as Brian Bellows and Al MacInnis. Proving to be the start of a strong team, they played their way to the Memorial Cup finals, losing to the Cornwall Royals who were repeat champions.
The next season the Rangers once again fought their way to the Memorial Cup finals and faced the Sherbrooke Castors. With a Brian Bellows hat trick, the Rangers captured their first Memorial Cups
Although the 1990’s turned out to be rebuilding years, the Kitchener Rangers returned to glory in the 2002-2003 season. Finishing first overall in the OHL, the team featured Mike Richards, David Clarkson and Derek Roy. In the Memorial Cup final, a hard fought battle was played out against the Hull Olympiques finishing with a 6-3 victory. The Kitchener Rangers were Memorial Cup champs yet again.
Junior hockey is still alive, well and thriving in Kitchener. The Rangers are always a playoff contender and will continue to be in the future. With currents stars like Ryan Murphy, Radek Faksa, and Max Iafrate, there’s no doubt in my mind Kitchener will return to the Memorial Cup podium. Hey, third time’s a charm.