After not having an arena ready for the 2014-15 season and needing to suspend operations, then scrambling to find a home, then losing their long-time team president; the final blow the current incarnation of the Las Vegas Wranglers happened as the owner Gary Jacobs has announced that the Wranglers are no more in the ECHL…and overall for the time being in the hockey landscape.
The current incarnation of the Wranglers came to be in the 2003-04 season as an expansion team and lasted 11 season until their suspension after last season. The success the team had was great, finishing their career with a .592 winning percentage (425-279-34-55), but never won the Kelly Cup in their two trips to the Finals; losing in 2008 and 2012 to the Cincinnati Cyclones and Florida Everblades respectively. They only had two losing seasons in 2004-05 and 2013-14, while having five 40+ win seasons, with the team in 2005-06 being tied for the third most wins in a season in the ECHL’s history.
During the 2008 run, the Wranglers relied mostly on Adam Cracknell, Tyler Mosienko, and the Ferraro twins of Chris and Peter to lead the way, with Kevin Lalande in net to help get the Wranglers to Finals with 13 wins on the way there. The 2012 run was a little more explosive with Adam Miller and Eric Lampe (Lampe winning the playoff scoring race with 14 assists and 21 points) being the playmakers for guys like Judd Blackwater, Peter MacArthur, and playoff surprise Scott Campbell. The Wranglers split goaltending that yet, but Joe Fallon and Mitch O’Keefe were tremendous when thrown into duty, despite coming up short.
Overall, the Wranglers did it without many big names being promoted through to the NHL. If anything the biggest names they had come out of the team was goaltending– Mike McKenna and Brent Krahn being two of the names at the top of that list. Deryk Engelland was another big name who made it to the NHL and made an impact, while the Ferraro twins had a few seasons of glory in Sin City. They had scoring from all areas throughout the history of the team, including local Chris Francis who played four seasons at home and will end up as sixth all-time scorer for the Wranglers (50g, 80a), which was 92 points behind all-time leading scorer Adam Miller (81g, 141a), who played four-season from 2007 until 2012, as the playoff run marked the end of his tenure.
However, before the Wranglers– the Las Vegas area was served well for minor league hockey in the old IHL with the Las Vegas Thunder, who had plenty of names come through there (Radek Bonk, Clint Malarchuk, Curtis Joseph, Pokey Reddick) and were able to draw a lot of interest even back in the day, while also being over .500 in win percentage in their six seasons in Vegas. The Wranglers name was to be used in the West Coast Hockey League and while there was a logo planned for the team– they never took the ice in the WCHL.
If nothing else, the Wranglers will be remembered for all the gimmicks they had, which drew plenty of attention. Whether it be the midnight games they put on or the indoor Winter Classic or the countless of current event promotions they had; the Wranglers always knew how to bring that Vegas pizazz to the ECHL and hockey landscape as a whole. For a Double-A team to get national attention is solid, especially to the promotions departments who often do things that go unnoticed and behind that curtain of office work.
Except for a blip in 2010-11, the Wranglers were one of the most well-attended teams in the ECHL, drawing an average of 4,740 over their 11 years. The fans came out, they had plenty to cheer for, and it was a well-run team from top to bottom. As a class of the ECHL, the team will be held up in high regard when looked back upon. For the fans of Las Vegas, this could be a stepping stone needed to get the NHL into Nevada, but at the same time– to lose a staple in the community like this with no reassurance of someone coming into fill that void is something that is heartbreaking for any fans out there.
Godspeed, Las Vegas Wranglers. May the gimmick kings who take your place get half the attention you got in your heyday.