|2019–20 ECHL season|
|Founded||1992 (in the CHL)|
|Home arena||Intrust Bank Arena|
|General manager||Joel Lomurno|
|Head coach||Bruce Ramsay|
|Media||The Wichita Eagle|
|Affiliates||Edmonton Oilers (NHL) |
Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
|Regular season titles||3 (1993–94, 1994–95, 2011–12)|
|Conference Championships||1 (1997–98, 2011–12)|
|Ray Miron President's Cup||2 (1993–94, 1994–95)|
The Wichita Thunder are a minor league hockey team based in Wichita, Kansas. The team played in the Central Hockey League from 1992 until 2014, and then in the ECHL since the 2014–15 season. From 1992 until December 2009 the Thunder played in the Britt Brown Arena located in the northern Wichita suburb of Park City. In January 2010 (the second half of the 2009–10 season), the team began playing its home games at the newly built Intrust Bank Arena.
Central Hockey League
The Thunder were one of the first six original teams of the second iteration of the Central Hockey League, along with the Oklahoma City Blazers, Tulsa Oilers, Memphis RiverKings, Dallas Freeze and the Fort Worth Fire. Wichita played their first home game at Britt Brown Arena on November 4, 1992, in front of a crowd of 5,486. In the same season, the Thunder had their first sellout in team history, the crowd of 9,686 fans watched the Thunder defeat Oklahoma City 4–3.
The Thunder were originally coached by Gary Fay, but after a 6–20 start, he was replaced by Doug Shedden. Although they started out with a 6–20 record, the season was quickly turned around by Shedden, and they finished their first season with a 25-32-2 record. On April 5, 1993, Thunder goaltender Robert Desjardins was named the first CHL Rookie of the Year. In the following two seasons, the Thunder were the regular season champions (Adams Cup) and playoff champions (William Levins Memorial Cup). Ron Handy was the Playoff Most Valuable Player for both seasons, he was the only player in Central Hockey League history to win the award on multiple occasions. In the 1993–94 season Doug Shedden won the Coach of the Year award, Robert Desjardins won the Regular Season Most Valuable Player award and Paul Jackson won the Scoring Champion award.
On May 14, 1995, head coach Doug Shedden resigned to become coach of the Louisiana IceGators of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Don Jackson was hired as the new head coach on July 21, 1995. He led the Thunder to a 22-39-3 record and missed the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. On July 19, 1996, Don Jackson resigned to become head coach of the Kansas City Blades of the International Hockey League (IHL). Jackson would be replaced by Bryan Wells to become the Thunder's fourth head coach in franchise history. Wells would go on to coach the Thunder for five seasons; they made the playoffs four out of the five seasons he coached. On May 2, 2001, Wells was dismissed as head coach.
After the dismissal of coach Wells, the Thunder announced that James Latos would be the new head coach. In Latos' first season coaching, the team went 24-34-6 and were out of the playoffs. Latos was fired the following season after a disappointing start of just 8-19-7. Just five days after coach Latos' dismissal, the Thunder announced that Derek Laxdal would become the team's new head coach. Laxdal went on to coach the Thunder for two seasons to an 87-58-8 record while clinching two separate playoff berths. On August 3, 2005, Laxdal announced his resignation to become the head coach of the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads.
Mark French took over as head coach from 2005 to 2007. During his tenure, he compiled a record of 70-59-16. He was fired mid-season in December 2007 with a 4–13 record. He would go on to become the assistant coach of the AHL's Hershey Bears and then the following season take them to a championship as their head coach. The Thunder then named former player Rob Weingartner to lead the team. Weingartner played for the Thunder from 1992 to 1996 where he was a member of two championship teams. Weingartner compiled a record of 16-29-2 during his tenure. He has since gone on to be the head coach of the Western States Hockey League's Wichita Jr. Thunder.
Brent Bilodeau was hired during the 2008 off-season and lead the team for two seasons and a record of 22-48-0. He was let go early in his second season but would go on to be the assistant coach of the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans for two seasons. After the Thunder fired Brent Bilodeau nine games into the 2009–10 season, Jason Duda was given the job on an interim basis while on injured reserve. Duda owns several franchise records from his Thunder career, scoring 870 points in 14 seasons. He would finish the season with a 7-43-5 record and go on to be an assistant coach under the next head coach, Kevin McClelland.
On October 7, 2014, soon before the 2014–15 CHL season was set to begin, it was announced that the Central Hockey League ceased operations and the Thunder, along with the Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Quad City Mallards, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush and Tulsa Oilers, were all approved for membership into the ECHL for the 2014–15 season. The team finished 5th out of 7 teams in the Central Division, scoring 73 points out of 144.
On April 16, 2016, the Thunder announced that the team would not renew head coach Kevin McClelland's contract for the 2016–17 season. He had been with the Thunder since 2010 and guided the team for six seasons becoming the longest tenured coach in Thunder history, leading the team for 408 games. During his time in Wichita, McClelland compiled a record of 194-166-48, clinching a playoff spot in his first season and taking the team to the playoff finals the following two seasons while still in the CHL. However, he failed to lead the team into the ECHL playoffs in his two seasons leading the team in the ECHL and the finished last in the overall standings in the 2015–16 season.
Malcolm Cameron was announced as the new head coach on May 20, 2016. One of his stated intentions in his opening press conference was to establish the Thunder's first NHL affiliation for the upcoming season. On July 4, 2016, the Ottawa Senators assistant general manager, Randy Lee, stated that his team was in negotiations for an affiliation with the Thunder for the 2016–17 season. The affiliation with the Senators and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, was finally confirmed on July 14. After one season, the Thunder changed affiliations to the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) and Bakersfield Condors (AHL). After three seasons, and one playoff appearance, Cameron was not offered an extension.
|Season||GP||W||L||T||OTL||SOL||Pts||GF||GA||PIM||Standing||Year||1st round||2nd round||3rd round||Finals|
|1992–93||60||25||33||—||0||2||52||242||320||1876||6th of 6, CHL||1993||—||Did not qualify|
|1993–94||64||40||18||6||—||—||86||309||275||2522||1st of 6, CHL||1994||—||W, 4–3, DAL||W, 4–0, TUL|
|1994–95||66||44||18||4||—||—||92||320||268||2513||1st of 7, CHL||1995||—||W, 4–1, OKC||W, 4–2, SA|
|1995–96||64||22||39||—||—||3||47||270||380||2304||6th of 6, CHL||1996||—||Did not qualify|
|1996–97||66||25||31||—||—||10||60||279||324||2660||4th of 5, Western Div.||1997||—||OKC||L, 1–4, FTW||—|
|1997–98||70||35||31||—||—||4||74||302||303||2321||2nd of 5, Western Div.||1998||—||W, 3–2, TUL||W, 4–3, OKC||L, 0–4, COL|
|1998–99||70||34||26||—||—||10||78||257||262||2158||3rd of 6, Western Div.||1999||—||L, 1–3, SA||—||—|
|1999–00||70||37||26||—||—||7||81||245||231||2049||2nd of 6, Western Div.||2000||—||L, 2–3, OKC||—||—|
|2000–01||70||30||32||—||—||8||68||251||251||2418||5th of 6, Western Div.||2001||—||Did not qualify|
|2001–02||64||24||34||—||—||6||54||203||262||1913||3rd of 4, Northwest Div.||2002||—||Did not qualify|
|2002–03||64||21||36||—||5||2||49||216||261||1837||4th of 4, Northwest Div.||2003||—||Did not qualify|
|2003–04||64||35||24||—||1||4||75||194||197||1558||2nd of 5, Northwest Div.||2004||—||W, 3–1, COL||L, 1–4, BS||—|
|2004–05||60||40||17||—||2||1||83||210||158||1784||2nd of 4, Northwest Div.||2005||—||W, 4–3, BS||L, 2–4, COL||—|
|2005–06||64||38||18||—||4||4||84||233||200||1841||2nd of 4, Northwest Div.||2006||—||L, 1–4, BS||—||—|
|2006–07||64||28||28||—||0||8||64||191||213||1841||3rd of 4, Northwest Div.||2007||L, 2–4, BS||—||—||—|
|2007–08||64||20||42||—||1||1||42||156||247||1905||5th of 5, Northwest Div.||2008||Did not qualify|
|2008–09||64||20||41||—||2||1||43||168||230||1419||4th of 4, Northwest Div.||2009||Did not qualify|
|2009–10||64||9||50||—||1||4||23||128||257||1354||7th of 7, Northern Conf.||2010||Did not qualify|
|2010–11||66||34||26||—||2||4||74||249||231||1189||5th of 9, Turner Conf.||2011||L, 2–3, MO||—||—||—|
|2011–12||66||44||19||—||1||2||91||231||181||1077||1st of 7, Berry Conf.||2012||—||W, 4–1, RGV||W, 4–2, TEX||L, 1–4, FW|
|2012–13||66||39||19||—||2||6||86||240||182||1106||2nd of 10, CHL||2013||—||W, 4–0, ARZ||W, 4–0, FTW||L, 3–4, ALN|
|2013–14||66||27||30||—||4||5||63||201||223||973||9th of 10, CHL||2014||—||Did not qualify|
|2014–15||72||32||31||—||2||7||73||213||240||1508||5th of 6, Central Div.||2015||Did not qualify|
|2015–16||72||18||41||—||7||6||49||150||240||1152||4th of 4, Central Div.||2016||Did not qualify|
|2016–17||72||21||44||—||6||1||49||189||278||1291||7th of 7, Central Div.||2017||Did not qualify|
|2017–18||72||34||30||—||6||2||76||222||235||1091||4th of 7, Mountain Div.||2018||L, 2–4, COL||—||—||—|
|2018–19||72||29||31||—||9||3||70||224||251||1286||5th of 7, Mountain Div.||2019||Did not qualify|
|2019–20||62||24||30||—||8||0||56||181||233||794||6th of 7, Mountain Div.||2020||Season cancelled|
Notable NHL alumni
List of Wichita Thunder alumni who played more than 25 games in Wichita and 25 or more games in the National Hockey League.
Awards and trophies
The following lists the league awards which have been won by the Thunder team and its players.
Community Service Award
Coach of the Year
Playoff Most Valuable Player
Most Outstanding Defenseman
Rick Kozuback Award
Rookie of the Year
All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (North)
- "CHL Clubs Join ECHL for 2014-15 Season". Central Hockey League. October 7, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- "ECHL Accepts Seven Members". ECHL. October 7, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- "Malcolm Cameron will be Wichita Thunder's next coach". The Wichita Eagle. May 19, 2016.
- "Ottawa Senators name Wichita Thunder new ECHL affiliate". silversevensens.com. July 4, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
- "Thunder Lands Affiliation Agreement with Ottawa Senators". OurSports Central. July 14, 2016.
- "Wichita Thunder hockey team parts ways with head coach Malcolm Cameron". The Wichita Eagle. April 11, 2019.
- "WICHITA NAMES BRUCE RAMSAY AS HEAD COACH". ECHL. May 15, 2019.
- "Wichita Thunder Roster - Wichita Thunder Hockey". Wichita Thunder. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
- Hall, John. "Duda's Number 11 Retired in Wichita". Pro Hockey News. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
- Central Hockey League Historical Award Winners, archived from the original on November 3, 2015, retrieved October 28, 2019
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