The Windsor Spitfires are heading into a new era as long-time general manager Warren Rychel has stepped down.
Rychel and the Spitfires made the announcement on Thursday morning, ending a 13-year reign. The move comes just a couple of weeks after three key signings heading into the 2019-20 season.
It’s a bittersweet moment as one hockey guy leaves, but another one steps into the fold.
The Bowler Era Begins
While Rychel steps down, the Spitfires welcomed a familiar name to the GM’s position. Replacing him will be Spitfires’ Vice President of Hockey Operations Bill Bowler, who joined the team’s front office in 2016.
Bowler played for the Spitfires from 1991-95, scoring 467 points in just 250 games; tops in club history. He was a Spitfires’ assistant coach from 2005-07.
In 2016, Bowler joined the Spitfires’ front office while he was also GM and head coach of the Jr. B LaSalle Vipers. He has worked alongside Rychel, joining him in league meetings and helping make decisions. It’s prepared him for this opportunity.
Bowler has big shoes to fill but he told the Spitfires’ website that he’s thankful for having worked beside Rychel for the last three years.
“It’s been a real exciting time for me,” Bowler said.
“I can’t thank Warren (enough) … and all the people in the office for allowing me to be in a position where I am today.”
Rychel will remain on with the Spitfires as a consultant. He told the team’s website that, following the offer from Dr. Azim Parekh in April to buy the club, he started thinking about his family and his future more.
“It’s tough, nothing does last forever,” Rychel said.
“I thought I’d give my part of the ownership to my two boys (Kerby and Maddux) and they’d move on, but some things happen in life … after the proposed sale to Toronto, things started moving and it was something I had to think about with my family … financially, moving on. It’s been great here. It’s been unbelievable.”
Rychel’s Legacy Remains
However, Rychel told the Spitfires’ Facebook page that the group had a vision.
“We sat down, we wrote things down that we wanted to do, and we did them,” he said.
“One of our goals (in 2006) was to get the new arena. Everyone laughed but … we got it done!”
What followed were three Memorial Cups, over 30 players drafted to the NHL, his sons making the club, and plenty of learning. It wasn’t always easy, but Rychel grew and brought pride to the organization.
When the Parekh deal fell through in May, the Spitfires restructured with Cypher Systems Group owning the majority. This week, Cypher made an offer to Rychel for his percentage and he accepted.
If the NHL doesn’t call this summer, expect to see him at the rink during training camp. Rychel told the Windsor Star that he’ll miss the interactions the most.
“I’ll miss driving to the rink every day,” said
“… I’ll miss coming to the rink in shorts, having a coffee and not worrying about anything and just getting in that room (his office).
“I’ll miss the camaraderie. Any ex-player will tell you the day-to-day camaraderie and the laughs are probably the best part.” (from ‘Cup-winning Rychel steps away from Spitfires with Bowler as new GM,’ Windsor Star, 7/11/19)
While Rychel looks to move on, embracing a new challenge in
Be thankful for what Rychel brought; openness and a willingness to do anything for his club. It was a breath of fresh air.
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.