WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder have found their replacement for Kevin McClelland. It is 46-year-old Malcolm Cameron.
Flanked by Thunder General Manager Joel Lomurno, Cameron was introduced at a press conference Friday at INTRUST Bank Arena.
In his opening remarks, Lomurno said a the process took some time and the team went through a good deal of candidates from junior hockey, colleges and professional assistant coaches.
“Early in the process, we identified that we wanted someone who has a proven track record of success,” Lomurno said. “We wanted someone that is familiar with the ECHL, tremendous connections to the AHL & NHL.”
Lomurno said Cameron’s references stood out, but there was one endorsement — from ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna — that stood out.
McKenna told Lomurno “If you hire this guy, you’re getting a tireless worker and relentless recruiter.”
“It’s a proud day for the Cameron Family,” Malcolm Cameron said. “The last time I was in Wichita was 18, 19 years ago as a player. The thing I remember was how passionate the fanbase was.”
Cameron comes to Wichita with a lengthy and successful resume. He started his ECHL coaching career with the Cincinnati Cyclones, where he spent one season and led the team to a 36-29-7 record and to the Conference Finals of the 2003 Kelly Cup playoffs.
From Cincinnati, he bounced around between the defunct United Hockey and Central Hockey Leagues for the 2003-04 season, but did not make the playoffs.
The following season, he returned to the ECHL, where he coached four teams over the next seven seasons. In six of those seven seasons, his teams made the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
He led two ECHL teams to significant turnarounds, which rank seventh and eighth-best for improving a team from one year to the next in ECHL history. Cameron took over as the bench boss of the Texas Wildcatters in 2006-07 and led them to a 41-22-9 record and 46-point improvement. In 2004-05, he took over as head coach for the Long Beach Ice Dogs and guided them to a 43-20-9 record and a 44-point improvement. In 2007-08, he set an ECHL record for fewest regulation losses in a season, going 52-9-11 and recorded 115 points, which is tied for second-most in league history.
After leaving Elmira in 2010-11, Cameron joined the WHL’s Regina Pats. In 2013-14, he led the team to the WHL East Division title with a record of 39-26-7. He was let go after the team was sold in April 2014.
For the last two seasons, Cameron has been coaching at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Canada, where he won a championship. In his first season, he put 11 players from that team into the Western Hockey League.
“The whole experience in Regina, winning the division for the first time in 25 or 30 years then all of a sudden you lose your job, that’s humbling,” Cameron said. “I really enjoyed my time at the Okanagan Hockey Academy. I really enjoyed the families, players…you don’t get that in pro hockey.”
Cameron has a tall order ahead of him in turning around a Thunder team which won just 18 games during the regular season.
“The great thing about the ECHL, different than any other league, is that you have a chance to win every year because you are in control of your own roster for the most part,” Cameron said. “You have a chance to build your roster with 150 days of hard work in the summer time.”
“I’ll take the next week to 10 days study some film and watch some games, talk to some people from around the league to find out more what their thoughts on some of the players on this team,” Cameron said. “I’m going to stay on the phone till I can find players who will win me 40 games.”
When it comes to his style of play, Cameron admits he is partially in the entertainment business, so his style will have some physical component in it.
“I’m a puck management guy — I’m not a dump and chase guy.” Cameron says. “I like players to be creative I want them think, but they have to be defensively responsible.”
“We’re going to be fast, we’re going to be hard-working, we’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to be physical…and we’re going to be in shape.”