The Wichita Thunder is actually one of the original six teams of the second Central Hockey League. The team played their first home game at Britt Brown Arena on November 4, 1992, in front of a crowd of 5,486 fans. Later that same season, the team had their first sellout game when they defeated Oklahoma City 4-3 before 9,686 fans.
The Thunder had a rough start under their first coach, Gary Fay, who was replaced after a 6-20 start in the season. His successor, Doug Shedden, turned things around bringing the team to a 25-32-2 record during their first season. This led to rapid improvements in the team that included goaltender Robert Desjardins who was named CHL Rookie of the Year in 1993. In the following two seasons, The Thunder then became regular season champion (Adams Cup) and playoff champion (William Levins Memorial Cup). Ron Handy became the Playoff MVP for both seasons and was the only player in Central Hockey League (CHL) history to win the award multiple times.
After the Shedden Era
On May 14, 1995, Shedden resigned to coach for the Louisiana IceGators of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Don Jackson was hired to replace him on July 21, 1995. He led the Thunder to a 22-39-3 record missing the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. After Jackson resigned, he was replaced by Bryan Wells, who became the franchise’s fourth head coach. Wells led the team for five seasons, making the playoffs in four of the five seasons he coached.
Under the ECHL
The franchise would switch coaches, honing the team for success until October 7, 2014 when it was announced that the CHL would cease operations. Thankfully, the Thunder were approved to join the ECHL for the 2014-2015 season. The team finished 5th out of the 7 teams in the central division.
But things turned around for the Thunder when Malcolm Cameron was announced as the new head coach on May 20, 2016. One of his stated goals was to establish the Thunder’s first NFL affiliation for the upcoming season. It was revealed that Randy Lee of the Ottawa Senators was in negotiations for the affiliation with the Thunder for the 2016-17 season. The affiliation was then confirmed on July 14.
The Thunder Today
Since the franchise’s formation in 1992 , the Wichita Thunder have held 3 regular season titles, 2 conference championships, and 2 Ray Miron President’s Cup. Wichita hockey fans still come out to catch the exciting on ice action every time they come home ot the Intrust Bank Arena.
About INTRUST Bank Arena
Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena is an incredible 15,004 seat multi-purpose arena. It is located in downtown Wichita, Kansas and is the sister to The Orpheum Theatre, also located in Wichita. The arena features 22 suites, 2 party suites, and over 300 premium seats and is currently home to the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder. It is the second largest indoor arena in Kansas with seating for 13,450 fans during ice hockey events and a max capacity of 15,750 for center stage style concerts.
The arena was intended to replace the aging Kansas Coliseum north of Wichita. During this early planning period, the facility was set to be known as Sedgwick County Arena. Sedgwick County voters approved of the downtown arena at a projected cost of $183,625,241 by a 52-48% margin. To help make this cost, then Governor Kathleen Sebelius signed a tax bill authorizing a 1% sales tax for 30 months starting on July 1, 2005.
Accolades and Recognition
The Arena quickly earned recognition for its design. On March 9, 2010, the Intrust Bank Arena was voted the “Best Arena” and “Best Locker Rooms” as well as third “Best Press Box” in the CHL’s annual Best of the Best poll. The Intrust Bank Arena also made it to Pollstar’s Top 50 Arena Venues list for ticket sales during the first quarter of 2010. It was also ranked 22nd in the US and 45th overall that same year.
The current all-time attendance record for the arena is owned by a Metallica concert on March 4, 2019, where the famous band played for a sold-out crowd of 15, 690 fans.
Ice Hockey Achievements
It’s no surprise that a team like the Wichita Thunder has so many awards and accolades under their belt. Here’s a small listing of some of the most impressive.
Notable NHL Alumni (Players who played 25 or more games with the Witchita Thunder and 25 or more games in the NHL)
- Pierre-Cédric Labrie
- Theo Peckham
- Ryan White
Most Valuable Player Awards
Anthony Beauregard: (2020–21)
William Levins Memorial Cup
Coach of the Year
- Doug Shedden (1993–94)
- Kevin McClelland (2011–12)
- Bruce Ramsay: (2020–21)
Most Outstanding Defenseman
- Paul Esdale: (2004–05)
- Andrew Martens: (2010–11)
- Kevin Young: (2012–13)
Rookie of the Year
- Robert Desjardins: (1992–93)
- Cory Dosdall: (1996–97)
- David Beauregard: (1997–98)