Fans lucky enough to be in the Kansas Coliseum on March 8, 1994, witnessed two memorable moments: the Thunder, after a forgettable inaugural season, hammered Tulsa 10-6 to clinch the Adams Cup, and a much-traveled veteran named Bryan Wells made his Wichita debut.
The first accomplishment left coach Doug Shedden, the architect of the turnaround, soaked with champagne.
The second event, the first appearance of a 28-year-old force of nature on skates, left fans shaking their heads in wonderment.
A 5-foot-8, 180-pound centerman from a small town in Saskatchewan, Wells arrived with a rep from the East Coast and Colonial hockey leagues, and he lived up to every bit of it by scoring four second-period goals, the last of which put the Thunder up 8-2.
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The goals alone would have represented a complete night, but, Wells being Wells, there was more to come.
Later in the period, the always-ready-and-willing Wells scrapped with Tulsa's Roger Hunt, who checked in at 6-2 and 255. During the fight, Hunt held onto Wells' hands, so Wells responded with a head butt to Hunt's jaw, which resulted in a match penalty.
Wells' short but productive evening was over.
On Wednesday evening, a reflective Wells mixed in several chuckles while reliving the game.
"I figured four goals by me was enough by a country mile, so I was done anyway," he said. "I just wanted to entertain a little bit since we were winning by so much. I always thought that if you were ahead by five goals or behind by five goals, the gloves were coming off."
On a team loaded with talent, toughness and personality, Wells was a key contributor in the playoffs, scoring six goals, including a game-winner, as the team marched to the Central Hockey League championship.
Wells, who said he hasn't been in Wichita for 10 years, is returning to participate in the Thunder's first alumni game on Saturday. Former Thunder players will battle former Tulsa players at 5:30 p.m. at Intrust Bank Arena. A CHL game between the two teams will follow.
Asked to describe his style of play, Wells couldn't settle on a specific label.
"I just played to win," he said. "I was aggressive, and I did what I could to intimidate the other team. Look at all the great players we had on that team — Ron Handy, Brent Sapergia, (Paul) Jackson, Bobby Berg, and I know I'm leaving guys out. There was no end to the talent.
"Guys like Jim Latos, Greg Neish, Rob Weingartner, myself and several others — we did the trench work."
Wells scored 85 points and compiled 683 penalty minutes in 73 games in Wichita. Following his playing career, he coached the Thunder for five seasons, reaching the playoff four times.
Now 45, Wells' life still revolves around hockey; he is the general manager of Planet Ice Rink, a facility in Lafeyette, La.
He remains active behind the bench, too, as a coach of the Ragin Cajuns, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette's club team that competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. And he also coaches a bantam team.
Not surprisingly, Wells said he still loves being at the rink. Interestingly, though, it isn't all about winning anymore.
"The good thing about what I do here is we're just trying to better young people," he said. "It's about developing them.
I still love to win, don't get me wrong, but it's obviously not as competitive as when you're coaching pro. I love coaching these kids. I'm very happy."
Jonathan Blank Night on Saturday _ The Thunder will honor Jonathon Blank, a Marine sergeant from Augusta who was severely injured in Afghanistan, Saturday night at its game with Tulsa.
There will be a 15-minute pregame tribute to Blank and his family. Sponsors will present him with checks during the second intermission, the club said.
Blank, 23, lost both of his legs on Oct. 26, when an improvised explosive device detonated. Various groups have been raising funds for the family to help pay for expanding doorways at their home to accommodate a wheelchair and purchase a vehicle with a wheelchair lift.