Friday, Oct. 17, 2003 | 10:44 a.m.
Yes, the baseball playoffs have been thrilling. But today we turn our sports focus to hockey.
The Las Vegas Wranglers -- a minor-league professional team affiliated with the Calgary Flames -- open their season tonight on the road in Boise against the Idaho Steelheads.
The Wranglers open at home Tuesday night against the Bakersfield Condors in the brand-spankin'-new Orleans Arena.
Our favorite thing so far about the team is the billboards with a set of teeth -- and a caption that says, "Something else people can lose in Las Vegas."
We're also looking forward to meeting Duke, the team mascot.
Wranglers veep Billy Johnson broke into the sports world as mascot Billy Bird for the Class AAA Louisville Red Birds in 1984. So you gotta think that mascots have a special place in his heart.
"Billy Bird paid my college tuition," Johnson told VegasBeat on Thursday. Afterward, the San Diego Chicken took Johnson under his wing before he became a baseball and then hockey executive.
"Mascots are an entry point into sports for a lot of kids, and that is so important," Johnson said. "We got Dave Raymond -- the famous Phillie Fanatic -- to help create Duke. Duke is a really swinging kind of cat."
Among other activities, Duke will slingshot kids across the ice between periods for prizes, and frolic with them in an onsite play area during the game.
Duke makes his first public appearance Saturday afternoon at the Bite of Las Vegas at Desert Breeze Park at Durango and Spring Mountain roads.
The team has been relentlessly promoting its upcoming season, with various players, execs and its inflatable Slap Shot kids game making appearances at community events for the last two months.
On Saturday morning the Slap Shot game will be at the Kids Zone at the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk in Summerlin. In the afternoon, it will be at the food festival.
Select tickets are still available for the home opener, where the Blue Man Group will perform the national anthem.
And while famous front-row sports faces such as Jack Nicholson or Spike Lee aren't expected, Johnson told VegasBeat that former "NYPD Blue" star Rick Schroder recently purchased part of the team and may attend the special VIP party before the game.
Vegas resident and Riviera regular Jimmie Walker -- famous for his "Dyn-o-mite!" exclamation on the '70s sitcom "Good Times" -- is defending Rush Limbaugh.
Walker writes a right-of-center column on the Jewish World Review website. (The site also features commentary from Bill O'Reilly, Jackie Mason, Alan Dershowitz and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.)
"Rush's comments had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the NFL's obscene affirmative action policy," Walker says.
Walker also dismisses Limbaugh's admitted addiction to prescription pills as a "single demerit in an otherwise stellar career."
A nod of thanks to New York Daily News gossip Lloyd Grove for bringing this to our attention.
Limbaugh left his ESPN football commentator gig after saying that the media was soft on Donovan McNabb because it was "desirous" that a black quarterback succeed.
Days later, the bombastic radio giant checked himself into rehab.
Andre Agassi has lobbed his support to Sen. Harry Reid for Reid's 2004 re-election campaign.
A letter from Las Vegas' best resident tennis player was part of a recent fund-raising solicitation sent out by Reid. Agassi calls Reid one of his "closest friends," and says that he possesses "quiet decency and limitless kindness."
Why the pitch? One reason may be that Reid was instrumental in getting former President Bill Clinton to offer himself up to a round of golf to the highest bidder at Agassi's "Grand Slam for Children" benefit the other week.
Marklen Kennedy will host a farewell party for the cast and crew of the "X" show -- which closes after this weekend -- at the Aladdin club Prana.
In addition to the regular performers, several Playboy models who have been in the show, including Amy Miller, Stacey Linde and Rebecca Scott, are expected to attend. The public is invited.
Conga line: Gloria Estefan, her husband, Emilio Estefan, and their kids, Nayib and Emily Marie, waited with all the other fans after Penn & Teller's show at The Rio on Thursday night for the duo to sign their programs after they took in their show. A fan sitting near Estefan said the Cuban pop star seemed to "be absolutely mesmerized" by their performance. Hey -- who isn't? ...
Smell: Former Las Vegas resident and "Sopranos" star Jamie-Lynn Sigler will be back in town Saturday. She'll be at the Sephora store inside The Venetian at 2 p.m. to promote Clea, a scent she has "fallen in love with" ...
Rerun: The premiere of Robin Leach's "Penthouse Vegas" show will be rebroadcast locally by KVVU Channel 5 on Saturday night after the first game of the World Series, at about 9 p.m. ...
Jackpot: Ben Affleck is the surprise player participating in the Bravo "Celebrity Poker Showdown" television series that is taping today through weekend at the Palms. He checked into the hotel just after 9 a.m. today, and is slated to hit the felt Saturday against five other famous faces.
From Sun wires
Woody Allen is near an agreement to sell the U.S. rights to a self-revelatory memoir of his life and loves to Penguin for about $3 million, people involved in the bidding say.
But in one of the oddest book proposals in memory, Allen has not decided whether he will actually write the memoir he is offering. He has made it clear to publishers that unless he receives a truly enormous sum as an advance for all the world rights, he will not deliver a book.
Ready to eat: David Blaine -- shaman to some, charlatan to others, showman above all -- is getting ready to leave his box.
The American magician is approaching Sunday's end to a 44-day fast-cum-vigil in a dangling plastic case in London -- hungrier, hairier and, he says, wiser than when he entered.
The 30-year-old says the feat is both the hardest and "the most beautiful" thing he's done.
Newton to be honored: For his efforts entertaining U.S. military personnel, singer Wayne Newton will get the Bob Hope lifetime service award during the Las Vegas Comedy Festival.
Newton took over Hope's USO duties two years ago as celebrity figurehead on tours.
The Smothers Brothers, Rita Rudner and Budd Friedman will also be honored during the Oct. 29-Nov. 2 festival at the Stardust Resort and Casino.