STOCKTON, Calif. – The Stockton Thunder, proud ECHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, and president Brian Sandy announced today that Rich Kromm has been named new head coach and director of hockey operations of the Thunder. Kromm will be introduced at a free meet and greet event, open to the media and public, with further details to be announced.
Kromm, 49, is the third head coach in Thunder history and replaces Matt Thomas, who accepted an offer to become head coach at the University of Alaska-Anchorage on June 18. Kromm begins work immediately as the leader of the ECHLs defending Western Conference champion and participant in the Kelly Cup Playoffs of seven consecutive seasons. In addition to his head coaching duties, Kromm will oversee the hockey operations department and all player personnel decisions.
Having served as a head coach at five levels in professional hockey and in the major junior ranks, he brings ten years of head coaching experience and multiple winning campaigns in professional hockey, along with four seasons of work behind the bench in the Western Hockey League.
“We’re thrilled to welcome a coach of Rich’s caliber in Stockton,” said Sandy. “I recall many fine qualities he displayed during our time together in the WHL and admire his ability to communicate, teach and develop. It has translated into success on his resume and we’re assured it will be an outstanding fit for our organization which continues to pursue excellence, both on and off the ice.”
“We are fortunate to get such an experienced coach like Rich,” said Thunder owner and chairman Brad Rowbotham. “His vast resume and proven track record at various levels, including extensive NHL playing time, will be very beneficial for the development of our players. He’s a straightforward communicator, well connected across the hockey landscape and carries an excellent reputation of living up to his promises. We’re excited about having that distinct advantage in helping get players to their next goal and continue a winning tradition in Stockton.”
At the professional level, Kromm’s teams have made the playoffs in five of the last seven seasons and surpassed the 40-win plateau four times. The native of Trail, British Columbia most recently coached the Evansville IceMen for three seasons, serving in a key role with their transition to the ECHL from the Central Hockey League in 2012-13.
Last season, he worked directly with two NHL affiliates of the IceMen, assisting in the development of prospects assigned through the Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues organizations. In 2011-12, Evansville was only one of three teams to crack the 40-win mark with a record of 40-22-4 (84 points) and finished tied for second place in the CHL’s Turner Conference.
Kromm’s resume includes four seasons as head coach of Muskegon in the United Hockey League and International Hockey League, where he was UHL Coach of the Year in 1998-99 while guiding the Fury to a Colonial Cup championship and the league’s Tarry Cup for the top regular season record at 50-18-6 (106 points). He left the organization as their all time winningest coach (modern history) with a record of 181-92-25 in 298 games (.649 winning percentage).
He also guided Muskegon to the UHL Semifinals in 1999-00 and IHL’s top regular season record at 51-20-5 (107 points) in 2009-10.
“I’m excited to join a terrific Thunder organization that has dedicated itself to winning and development,” said Kromm. “Matt’s legacy was well documented throughout the hockey community and the first thing that comes to my mind is building off the success of last season. I look forward to helping our players develop into talent that will be ready for the AHL and NHL, while continuing the pursuit of our goal for a championship.”
He was an assistant coach for the Chicago Wolves in 1997-98, helping steer the club to the IHL’s Turner Cup championship with the league’s best record at 55-24-3 (113 points). He also assisted the Florida Panthers’ scouting efforts during the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs, following two seasons in the American Hockey League as head coach of the Carolina Monarchs from 1995-97.
Kromm began his coaching career in the IHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones, serving in assistant and interim head coaching roles from 1993-95 when he helped orchestrate back to back 49-win seasons and a combined regular season mark of 98-45-19 (win percentage of .663).
His four seasons of junior experience include time behind the bench with the Calgary Hitmen and Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Kromm steered Calgary to playoff appearances in back-to-back seasons (2002-04) while coaching future NHL first round draftees and forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Ladd and defenseman Jeff Schultz.
As an NHL left wing, Kromm skated in parts of nine seasons with the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders, totaling 173 points (70g-103a) in 372 career games. He dressed in 36 career Stanley Cup Playoff games and collected eight points (2g-6a). He was selected in the second round (37th overall) by Calgary in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft.
Kromm’s father, Bobby, was head coach of the Detroit Red Wings for three seasons (1977-80) and the recipient of the Jack Adams Award in 1978 as NHL Coach of the year.
The Thunder opens the regular season at home for “Opening Night,” with the unveiling of the Western Conference championship banner on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. against the Colorado Eagles at Stockton Arena.