WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder are affiliate-less no more.
As first reported by Murray Pam of The Hockey News and confirmed by The Sin Bin, the Wichita Thunder will be the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators next season. Officials with Wichita tell The Sin Bin the affiliation agreement between the clubs is for one season.
Thunder officials have opted not to hold a formal press conference to announce the affiliation, due to conflicts in travel schedules.
“We’re very excited to be entering into this partnership with the Senators,” commented Thunder Head Coach Malcolm Cameron. “Thunder fans will have an opportunity to see potential future Senators wearing Wichita jerseys this season while watching players progress throughout the season. This agreement also provides our own players with an opportunity to be monitored by the Senators organization. Personally, I look forward to helping in the development of NHL-level prospects.”
For the Thunder organization, it is the first NHL affiliation in the team’s 25-year history and the first for hockey since the Wichita Wind were affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers from 1980-82 and the New Jersey Devils for the 1982-83 season. This is also the first pro-sports affiliation for the city since 2007, when the Wichita Wranglers of the Texas League were affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.
The only other affiliation the Thunder’s history came from 1997-1999 when they were paired with the Kansas City Blades of the defunct International Hockey League.
“We’re proud to become the first NHL affiliate of the Wichita Thunder,” said Senators assistant general manager Randy Lee. “The development of our prospects continues to be an important priority for our club. As we strive to place players in environments which are conducive to both individual and team success, we feel confident that a number of our young players will be able to progress with the Thunder.”
According to former Evansville IceMen broadcaster John Peterson, the Senators were very active with the team last season. He tells The Sin Bin Lee made several visits to Evansville and sent team representatives to help the IceMen with strength and conditioning, as well as positioning.
Player wise, Peterson says the IceMen received netminder Scott Greenham; defenseman Troy Rutkowski and Ben Harpur (conditioning); forwards Vincent Dunn, Alex Wideman, Matthew Zay, Ryan Penny, and Daultan Leveille. All but one of the forwards was called up to AHL Binghamton at some point during the season, but Peterson says they all spent the majority of the season in Evansville.
The Binghamton Senators, who became Ottawa’s AHL affiliate in 2002, are a member of the league’s Eastern Conference and North Division. Binghamton won the Calder Cup in 2010-11 after earning a regular season record of 42-20-3-5 en route to the city’s first hockey championship. Former B-Sens who are in the midst of successful careers with Ottawa include Mark Borowiecki, Mike Hoffman, Chris Kelly, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith and Mark Stone.
Wichita opens their silver anniversary season on October 15 at home against the Tulsa Oilers.