Stepaniak steps down off 'Dogs bench


By Josh Howald

The Western Junior C League's Coach of the Year won't be back behind the bench next season.

Steve Stepaniak will not return as head coach of the Kincardine Bulldogs next season. (Kincardine Independent file photo/Josh Howald)


Steve Stepaniak announced Thursday that he will not return as head coach of the Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs for the 2016-17 season.

Stepaniak coached the 'Dogs to Kincardine's first Western League championship since 2009.

"It was definitely a tough decision to walk away, but the timing was right," said Stepaniak. "Obviously it is nice to walk away with a league championship."

Overtime of Game 7 was the way to do it. Kincardine's run was eventually ended by the Alliston Hornets in the Schmalz Cup quarter-finals.

This year was Stepaniak's second season as bench boss for the Bulldogs. He was named the Western League's Coach of the Year in 2015 and again in 2016. The 'Dogs finished tied for third place in his rookie season behind the bench, and were second this year with a 25-10-1 record. Overall, the team had a record of 61-35-6 under his guidance.

The determining factor in his decision not to return was life away from the arena.

"(Daughter) Clara is getting older, and we have another one due in a couple of weeks, so things are going to get really busy," he said.

"I'm looking forward to having some time to play a little old-timers hockey too," he added.

Stepaniak said he hopes to remain involved with the Bulldogs in some capacity, but it won't be behind the bench.

Before accepting the Bulldogs coaching position, Stepaniak spent five seasons coaching the Kincardine Miller Insurance Kinucks. In those five years, the midget rep team won three OMHA All-Ontario championships and lost in the finals once.

The Bulldogs have not yet named a replacement for Stepaniak. Logic would dictate the 'Dogs would consider Stepaniak's assistants - Jeff Alcombrack and Shawn Burrows, as well as last season's midget coach Cory Hamilton, for the job if they are interested.

In other Western Junior C news, the Wingham Ironmen hired a new head coach. Jim Fritzly, who coached the Clinton Radars to a WOAA Senior AA championship this season, was announced as the new bench boss earlier today.