In 1992, the Wichita Thunder hockey team took the ice for the first time, and they've been taking Wichita by storm ever since. (No pun intended.) This season marks the team's 25th anniversary. The team's General Manager, Joel Lomurno, joined the Thunder in 1993. According to Lomurno, several things have changed for the team over the past 25 years. Check out these changes the Thunder have experienced.
A Growing League
In 1992, the Wichita Thunder played for a league comprised of only six teams. Today, the Thunder are part of the ECHL, which includes a total of 27 teams.
Increasing Team Size
The ECHL isn't the only place that the Thunder have seen growth, however. When the Thunder started playing 25 years ago, the team consisted of 16 players, each with a salary cap of $6,000 per season. Today the team is made up of 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies for a total of 18 players with a salary cap of $12,000 each per season.
A New Coach
Also new this year is Coach Malcolm Cameron. Cameron has coached in the ECHL for eight full seasons and in each of those seasons, his team progressed to the playoffs.
“We brought in a new coach and it is his team. He knows the right mix of which guys to bring back from last season and will fill out the roster with talented new players," Lomurno said.
Fans can expect to see a roster full of new names this season, according to Lomurno.
"We used to have more players that were older," Lomurno said, "but we're in a league that's faster and younger, so we're bringing on players that are faster and younger."
Fans may also recognize new players on the roster as a result of a recent affiliation with the National Hockey League starting this season. Each team in the ECHL is affiliated with a team in NHL, allowing select players to rotate up and down between teams as needed. The Thunder hockey team is affiliated with the Ottawa Senators, so fans can expect to see a few swaps of the teams' players throughout the season.
In the days of Thunder games at the Kansas Coliseum, the team's fans repeatedly received the league's award for the Most Annoying Fans. The Coliseum had low glass behind the bench, resulting in the players and coaches being directly in earshot of the fans. On multiple occasions, opposing players and coaches grew so frustrated with Thunder fans that they were ejected from the game.
"The glass is higher at Intrust Bank Arena, so the players can't hear as much, but our fans are still the rowdiest. They always have been," Lomurno said.
25th Anniversary Logo
This season, the Wichita Thunder debuts a new logo to commemorate the 25th anniversary. Check it out!
The Wichita Thunder opens its 25th anniversary season this weekend with a face-off against the Tulsa Oilers.
Saturday, October 15 at 7:05 p.m., Intrust Bank Arena