It's prudent to listen attentively and respectfully when Chris McAllister speaks, given that he's a 6-foot-7, 245-pound hockey player with a well-documented mean streak.
In addition to self- preservation, there's one additional reason to pay close attention to the Wichita Thunder captain: McAllister possesses the ability to crystallize issues as quickly as he dishes out punishment to opponents.
On Wednesday, as he was preparing for the team's two-game road trip, McAllister spoke enthusiastically, and succinctly, about coming home today, when the struggling Thunder will play its first game in Intrust Bank Arena.
"New building, fresh start," he said.
Indeed, if ever a local sports team were in need of the cliched "fresh start," it is the Thunder.
The once-proud Central Hockey League franchise, which built a loyal fan base by winning championships in 1994 and 1995, is in by far the worst shape of its 18-year existence.
"It's no secret," general manager Joel Lomurno said. "Every day has been a struggle for us this season."
On Thursday night, the Thunder lost its 22nd consecutive game — the longest streak for futility in the history of the CHL. The team won Friday night at Tulsa and enters tonight's Intrust Bank Arena debut with a 4-29-3 record.
The Thunder hasn't had a winning record since 2005-06, and all the losses have clearly affected fan interest. In 19 games in the Kansas Coliseum this season, the Thunder averaged 3,866 fans, down from 5,457 last season.
Despite all the depressing results, on Tuesday afternoon Lomurno put his feet on his desk, grinned and declared his staff "re-energized" by tonight's game.
"We've been waiting for this since the start of the season," he said in his office at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. "There's a lot of excitement right now. People are in here buying tickets right and left. Phones are ringing.
"The place is buzzing. I really think the city is excited about this game."
Chuck Grill certainly is. A season-ticket holder for 15 seasons, Grill expects the atmosphere to be more "upbeat" in the arena.
"I think it's going to be awesome, I really do," he said. "I've been excited about this for two weeks. I am really ready for it to happen."
Chris Presson, general manager of the arena, has described the Thunder as "the most important ingredient to the success of the facility."
He brings an interesting perspective to the discussion of the Thunder because he served as general manager of the team before assuming his current position.
Presson said he is not disappointed that the Thunder, the arena's anchor tenant, brings such a poor record into the new facility. He added that he doesn't know how the Thunder's struggles will affect attendance for the team's 13 remaining home games.
"I feel for them," he said. "There is nothing worse than being in the position they are in. Not having won a lot of games, it's hard to build a lot of excitement."
Presson, named the 2006 executive of the year by the CHL, said he thinks Intrust Bank Arena will improve the fans' game experience and help the Thunder recruit better players.
"This new facility, and the amenities it has to offer, will be night and day to what the team has had the past 18 years," Presson said. "The players will finally have a place they can be proud of. It's got to put a little jump in their step."
At the close of business on Friday, the Thunder had sold more than 10,500 tickets to tonight's game, meaning it will be the best-attended game in franchise history. The arena has a capacity of 13,500 for hockey.
Lomurno and interim coach Jason Duda, a star player before a bad back forced him to injured reserve this season, have stressed to the team the importance of putting on an entertaining show.
A fan of physical hockey, Lomurno is hoping the game includes a couple of fights, a few highlight-worthy Thunder goals and a pleasing flow.
Duda isn't quite so particular. Like McAllister, he needed only a few words to make his point.
"I just want a win," he said. "Just a win."