Monday, June 1, 1998 | 11:15 a.m.
They were set to get rolling, but then the wheels fell off.
There will be no roller hockey in Las Vegas this summer.
Momentum for the Las Vegas Coyotes came to a screeching halt when Roller Hockey International decided to suspend operations for 1998. The team, formerly the dormant Oklahoma Coyotes, moved operations to Las Vegas in December and was to have started play this month.
"We'd rather take the time, crawl through it and come in strong next summer," Coyotes general manager Mike Talkington said.
RHI will make a public stock offering later this month. the move should fill the league's coffers and prepare it for a planned resurrection in 1999. RHI expects 12-16 teams eventually to compete, including some from major markets such as Miami, Denver, Dallas and Houston.
"For the first time, they're going to have well over $20 million in their bank accounts to promote the sport," Talkington said of RHI. Teams are "actually building their own arenas in some cities because they have to get out of the larger arenas that cost 20 grand a night."
The Coyotes originally intended to play their 12-game home schedule at the Thomas & Mack Center, but dates and funding seemed hard to come by. Instead, the team reached an agreement with the Millennium, the under-construction North Las Vegas arena that broke ground in April. According to Talkington, the Millennium will seat around 6,500 for roller hockey.
Talkington is confident the Coyotes won't suffer the same demise as the Las Vegas Flash, an RHI team that folded in 1994 after one season. Talkington claims the year off could actually make the league and its franchises even more financially sound.
"There have been markets in the past that clearly weren't ready for roller hockey," Talkington said. "There have been a lot of weak owners out there. We need to sift through that portion and get stronger ownership in there."
During the year off, the Coyotes intend to take advantage of the roller hockey boom in Las Vegas. According to Talkington, there are five private roller hockey rinks catering to 3,000 players. Countless others play at public parks and on city streets.
The Coyotes are operated by Chandar Sports Nevada, a San Diego company that specializes in sports entertainment facilities.