Tuesday, April 13, 1999 | 10:40 a.m.
SUN STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
The plug has yet to be pulled on the Las Vegas Thunder and already there's another professional hockey league that wants to lie in its bed.
The president of the West Coast Hockey League confirmed today that it would be interested into expanding into Las Vegas, but said any comment from the league prior to the Thunder's fate being decided would be premature and unprofessional.
But, said WCHL president Mike McCall from his Boise, Idaho, office today, "if Las Vegas becomes available in terms of a marketplace ... we'd be extremely interested."
The eight-team WCHL is several rungs below the International Hockey League, in which the Thunder plays, on the pro hockey league talent ladder. Whereas the IHL is considered a "triple-A" league, the four-year-old WCHL is more or less an entry level circuit featuring aggressive players.
The WCHL has franchises in Anchorage, Bakersfield, Fresno, Boise, Colorado Springs, Tacoma, Phoenix and San Diego. Reno and Las Vegas have been mentioned as possible expansion franchises for the 2000-2001 season.
Mike Talkington, a partner in Las Vegas' new roller hockey team that will begin play at the Santa Fe in June, would be one of three owners of the Las Vegas team, if it comes to fruition.
Talkington has said Santa Fe Gaming's planned arena across from Sunset Station in Henderson is the leading candidate to serve as headquarters for the new team, which would be known as the Wranglers. But that project has been put on hold.
WCHL officials say average crowds of 3,000-3,500 are considered the break-even point in the WCHL.
The Thunder's fate in Las Vegas was sealed last weekend, when the Thomas & Mack Center indicated it was not interested in renewing the hockey team's lease.