As a player, Kevin McClelland was known for battling in the corners, finishing his checks and fighting all challengers, no matter their size.
For proof, go to YouTube and witness the 6-foot-1 McClelland trading blows with Bob Probert, a legendary brawler who checked in at 6-3.
McClelland was fearless.
As the first few weeks of the hockey season have shown, the new Wichita Thunder boss brings a similar attitude to coaching.
Last Saturday, the Thunder tied a game at Missouri with 16 seconds left and won it 4-3 in overtime for the team's fifth straight victory.
Instead of simply enjoying the streak, McClelland continued to try to upgrade the roster with two major moves.
Even though the Thunder's current goalies have been playing well, Peter Delmas, a second-round NHL draft pick in 2008, joined the team and is expected to start at least one game this weekend.
And McClelland traded for winger Matt Robinson, an experienced player with proven scoring ability. To make room, the Thunder waived Chris Falloon, the team's second-leading goal scorer.
McClelland's style is in stark contrast to other recent Thunder coaches, who threatened moves but seldom shook up the roster to any dramatic degree, even when it was obviously necessary.
"I don't want to throw anyone under the bus here, but when you start a season poorly, you just can't hope that you turn it around," general manager Joel Lomurno said. "You've got to be willing to make the moves."
McClelland, whose team plays host to Missouri (3-3-2) tonight, is more than willing. He is unapologetically aggressive when it comes to shaping a roster.
"The big thing is, you can't worry about making the wrong move; sometimes, it's gonna happen. But as long as you're trying, things usually work out," McClelland said.
It will be interesting to watch how McClelland handles the goalie situation. The 6-2 Delmas played two games with the higher-level Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League, where he was 1-0-1 with a 1.92 goals-against. Marty Magers (3-1, 2.48) and Marc-Antoine Gelinas (2-0, 1.00) have been key factors during the team's winning streak, but one — perhaps both — will likely spend time watching some action in street clothes this weekend.
"They're professionals, and if they don't understand, there's probably no reason for them to be here anyway; it comes with the territory," McClelland said. "When you do get in the net, that's when you do your speaking.
"We're looking at the long haul, not just two or three games. The guys have to stay positive. If you're sitting in the stands, use the time to evaluate and get ready for when you get your chance."
In Robinson, the Thunder adds a 6-1 forward who had 28 goals and 55 points last season in the East Coast Hockey League; in eight games with Laredo this year, he had six points.
"He's a tremendously skilled player," McClelland said. "He's bigger and a litte younger than who we had in that spot before. He'll win some battles on the walls for us. I've been a little concerned with our board work and wing battles. It's made us, not panic, but just try to hold on at the end of some games."
Robinson and Delmas are two of seven players on the current roster who weren't with the team on opening night. By contrast, last year's coach, Brent Bilodeau, didn't add a sixth new player until Dec. 4 — and the Thunder was 3-14-2 by then.
McClelland's additions have included Troy Schwab (eight points in eight games); defenseman Steve Kaunisto (league-leading plus-11); and Chris Moran (six points in seven games).
"The signings he has made are unbelievable," Lomurno said. "Look at Schwab — waived by Texas and Rapid City. I bet you both teams wish they had seen his potential. But their loss is our gain. The thing is, Kevin is so well-liked and so respected and he has so many connections. It gives him the opportunity to do a lot of beneficial things with our roster."