This morning, the San Jose Sharks announced that the team has entered into an affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder for the 2022-23 season. The organization can now assign players to the Thunder for development, including players on two-way AHL contracts.
“We’re looking forward to working with the Wichita Thunder, including Head Coach Bruce Ramsay and General Manager Joel T. Lomurno. Having a solid affiliation in the ECHL is important to our player development plan and the ECHL has a solid track record with preparing prospects for their NHL and AHL careers,” said Sharks Assistant General Manager Joe Will in a release.
After playing 22 seasons in the now-defunct Central Hockey League since 1993, the Thunder will be entering their ninth season in the ECHL and 31st season of the franchise. During their time in the Central Hockey League, Wichita were league champions in 1994 and 1995 and made the championship final in back-to-back seasons (2012 and 2013) before joining the ECHL in 2014. In the 2020-21 regular season, they finished fourth in the league, earning a 41-22-8 record.
Joel T. Lomurno serves as the franchise’s general manager and was selected as the ECHL Executive of the Year in 2021-22. Bruce Ramsay serves as the team’s head coach and was named ECHL Head Coach and GM of the Year following the 2020-21 season. Matt Brokaw serves as the club’s Vice President. The Thunder play in the INTRUST Bank Arena in downtown Wichita.
“I’m very excited to be working with the San Jose Sharks and Barracuda. I look forward to helping develop players for their organization that could potentially play in the NHL. The Sharks have a lot of excitement around them with the hiring of Mike Grier as their new GM and David Quinn as their new Head Coach. We look forward to helping assist in building a winning culture for all three organizations” said Ramsay.
The Sharks organization already has some ties to the ECHL, with current players James Reimer (Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays) and Steven Lorentz (Florida Everblades) initially starting their careers in the third-tier men’s league before making their respective NHL debuts. Sharks assistant coach Scott Gordon (Johnstown Chiefs) was the first-ever ECHL alumnus to play in the NHL, while Sharks goaltending coach Thomas Speer (Idaho Steelheads and Las Vegas Wranglers) also played in the ECHL.
Sharks assistant coach Ryan Warofsky (South Carolina Stingrays) and Scott Gordon (Roanoke Express) previously held head coaching jobs in the ECHL, along with Thomas Speer serving as a goaltending coach with the Allen Americans (2014-17) during the team’s multi-season affiliation agreement with San Jose.
Prior to their affiliation with the Sharks, the Thunder were affiliated with the Ottawa Senators (2016-17) and the Edmonton Oilers (2017-2022). The Sharks were most recently affiliated with Allen from 2014 to 2018. Since the end of that agreement, the organization has sent players to the Orlando Solar Bears on loan, but did not enter into an official affiliation with the team, who has an affiliate agreement with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Currently, the ECHL has 28 total teams, all of whom are now affiliated with an NHL team.