A former player will coach the Wichita Thunder next season.
The club announced in a press conference at Intrust Bank Arena on Wednesday afternoon that Bruce Ramsay, who played for the Thunder in the 2000-01 season and racked up 364 penalty minutes, has been hired as head coach on a two-year contract. Financial details were not made public.
Ramsay, 50, will replace Malcolm Cameron, who came to a mutual agreement not to return to the Thunder after his third season in Wichita.
“Being a former player here and my daughter was born here, Wichita has always held a special place in my heart,” Ramsay said. “I’ve always had that inner drive to be a head coach and I had a few opportunities, but when Wichita came calling I jumped at it. To me, this is one of the best places to coach in the country.”
Since his playing career ended in 2005, Ramsay has transitioned into a successful coach. He is most well-known for being the head coach for the Tulsa Oilers from 2009-15, where he finished with a 185-180-35 record, but he spent the last three seasons as an assistant in the AHL with Grand Rapids and was part of the coaching staff that helped the Griffins win the 2017 Calder Cup title.
In his head coaching career, which spans 11 seasons, Ramsay has guided his teams to the playoffs eight times. As a player, Ramsay also won eight championships.
That type of winning is what the Thunder, which have missed the playoffs five of the last six years, is wanting to get back to.
In his press conference, Ramsay spoke about the “arts and sciences” that he believes will return Thunder to their past glory.
“The sciences are the X’s and O’s and I know in Wichita, you’ve got to be tough,” Ramsay said. “The game isn’t played the way it used to be played, but I want to be heavy still. We want to be feared at home and on the road and we want to overwhelm teams with our speed, our ferocity and our relentlessness.
“When I talk about the arts, that’s a part of coaching not a lot of people understand because they don’t see it. But you’ve got to unite a team together in order to achieve a common goal. Our goal is to win ECHL championships. I want these players to come into work every single day excited to be going to work. We want to be a place that players want to come play.”
The Thunder management are banking on Ramsay’s reputation and connections to make sure Wichita is an attractive free-agent destination.
Player announcements for the upcoming season are expected to be announced in one month around June 15. But with Ramsay’s relationships at the NHL and AHL level, the Thunder are hoping to add an influx of talent.
“One thing we definitely talked about was the contacts he has,” Thunder general manager Joel Lomurno. “He has great relationships with a lot of the agents. The biggest thing he mentioned about the X’s and O’s when he was in Grand Rapids was he was in charge of power plays and defense. Well, we don’t need any help with power plays (Thunder finished first last season) but this has definitely not been one of the most stout defensive teams for the last four or five years. It’s going to be refreshing to see a coach that puts defense first.”
Ramsay also listed three main reasons why he views Wichita as such an attractive position:
1. Intrust Bank Arena. “I’ve coached all over the United States and this arena ranks up there better than 98 to 100 percent of them,” Ramsay said.
2. Wichita’s fans. “When I played here, they made me feel at home and that’s awesome,” Ramsay said. “It’s a great recruiting tool because players know when they come here, they’ll be treated like royalty.”
3. The ownership. “I can say in my time that when I’ve been given the tools you need for success, then that success follows,” Ramsay said. “I know with the Steven brothers, the tool box is always going to be full.”
Lomurno said he interviewed around 12 candidates, but kept coming back to Ramsay as the answer. He has past experience with him when the two were in Wichita for the 2000-01 season and Lomurno was impressed by his past success and upper-tier connections.
With the ECHL All-Star Classic coming to Intrust Bank Arena next January, the Thunder realized they have a chance to raise their profile this season. But they’ve got to win and with Ramsay, they are confident they have their manager that can lead them to that.
“X’s and O’s are important, but when you combine that with a team that cares about each other, then you have this unstoppable rock rolling down the hill,” Ramsay said.