Las Vegas Sun

October 16, 2018

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Columnist Dean Juipe: New leagues need savvy to survive

Dean Juipe's column appears Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. His boxing notebook appears Thursday. Reach him at [email protected] or 259-4084.

The fax kicked out the complete International Basketball League schedule and the first order of business was to organize an inner-office pool in which the winner would be the person who came closest to selecting the date the Las Vegas Silver Bandits would succumb.

Surely the team will find the public sufficiently apathetic to keep it from completing its 64-game schedule next May.

Within minutes Monday's mail arrived and there in the midst of the weekly Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal was a mention of Las Vegas being one of four cities in the running for a team in something called the Women's Professional Football League, which is eying a 2001 inaugural season.

However despairing the thought of women playing football, it led to this random and marginally related thought: Whatever happened to Las Vegas' franchise in Roller Hockey International?

A quick call to head coach Chris McSorley confirmed the obvious: the Coyotes, as the first-year team is called, have completed their regular season in the definitive publicity vacuum. Their 6-4 loss at Anaheim Sunday night went unreported in Las Vegas, not meriting even a blurb or a mention beyond the radio shopping network that carried their games.

Playoffs begin this week in Anaheim and the Coyotes, who finished 16-7-3 and played at the Santa Fe casino, would seem to already have a foot in the grave no matter how the postseason plays out. With the exception of opening night their games were never covered by the print or TV media and, obviously, by the end there wasn't enough interest in the team to justify a paragraph's worth of copy.

"A media vacuum? Absolutely," McSorley agreed. "The saddest part of the season for me has been playing a game the night before and not being able to get up and have a cup of coffee and read about how we did. But the team and the league is still in the embryonic stage, plus we all understand the Las Vegas market."

McSorley is an energetic, sharp guy with multiple irons in the fire (including coaching a newly formed hockey team in London and serving as commissioner for the Pro Beach Hockey league in California), yet his latter statement is debatable. If the Coyotes' front office truly understood the Las Vegas market it would have zealously promoted the team and, perhaps, forced the media to be attentive.

Instead, it did nothing and relied on word of mouth to attract an unsatisfactory 400 to 1,000 fans per home game.

Nonetheless -- and despite impressions to the contrary -- McSorley believes the team will be back next season, albeit in a different venue as the Santa Fe's rental requirements (and outskirts site) proved to be negatives. The All-American SportPark has been mentioned, although its small rink size would seem to prohibit landing a professional tenant.

The Coyotes could succeed, as roller hockey looks to be an emerging sport with a definite appeal to younger fans and participants, but they never will without a little more business acumen and the sufficient financing they currently lack.

As it is, they could call it quits without anyone knowing.

At least in the IBL's case we can expect a fax from the league office the day the Silver Bandits capitulate.