When you talk a 10-minute walk through Henderson, you’ll see houses, business, new structural developments and the mountainous backdrop that all contribute to the charm of the Las Vegas Valley.
When Manny Viveiros used to go for a 10-minute stroll as a player for Villach in Austria, he’d walk past hot springs in the hills, sites of famous meetings between leaders of nations and an old Roman road still equipped for chariots.
Viveiros’ scenery has changed through the years and so has his role in the game of hockey. A long-time professional player in North America and Europe, his career on the ice has led to success behind the bench and the head coaching job with the Henderson Silver Knights is the latest step in a long journey in the sport.
Hockey has taken Viveiros and his wife, Laurie, and sons, Landan and Layne, all over the world. Stops along the way range from Prince Albert Saskatchewan to Vienna, Austria. The end of his playing career saw him move behind the bench and into the front office as his hockey story gained a new chapter.
The journey that has brought the Viveiros family to Henderson began in the rinks and driveways of St. Albert, Alberta where a passion for hockey developed.
“I just love the game,” Viveiros said. “It’s something that my friends and I were playing every waking moment that we weren’t in school. In Canada in the summertime, you’re playing a lot of street hockey and that’s pretty much all we did.”
The love of the game made his decision to pursue hockey that much easier as he moved to Prince Albert to play at the junior level for the Raiders. Viveiros thrived under head coach Terry Simpson as he developed into an offensive defenseman. As his game developed, scouts started to take notice and he signed a contract with the Minnesota North Stars in 1986.
After a night in Kamloops, B.C. sleepless with anticipation, Viveiros had to go to Minnesota to join his NHL team so he grabbed his suit bag from under the bus, hopped in a taxi and flew to the Twin Cities. Once he arrived at his hotel, he made a discovery that would throw his and Simpson’s wardrobes off-kilter for a few weeks.
“When I got to Minnesota, I opened up my suit bag and it was Terry Simpson’s suit bag,” Viveiros said. “I spent two weeks with my then 40-year-old coach’s clothes, and he was stuck with the clothes of a 19-year-old kid for the rest of the road trip. Back then, it wasn’t easy to connect to get him his clothes back. Needless to say, he wasn’t very happy.”
With new clothes in tow, Viveiros played for the North Stars in the NHL, the Springfield Indians in the AHL and the Kalamazoo Wings and Albany Choppers of the AHL through the 1990-91 season. By the 1991-92 season, he was playing an ocean away from where he grew up.
“We had spent five seasons of pro hockey in North America and we decided we’d just go over to Europe for a year to try it,” Viveiros said. “We ended up spending a long time over there, about 26 or 27 years there.”
Hockey was the focus for Viveiros during his time in Europe as he played in five leagues from 1991 to 2007 before his playing days came to an end. While he was there, the history that entrenched the region interested Viveiros as he learned about a culture so different from his own. He also saw change happen in neighboring countries as new nations took shape.
“I still remember that when we first went over there in the early 1990’s, the Villach area borders three countries,” Viveiros said. “It used to be the old Yugoslavian border. That’s when the Yugoslavian war was starting, and we were separated by basically a mountain from what was going on over there. We used to see a lot of planes fly over into Austrian territory and the Austrian air force would chase them back. There were no issues for us where we were, but we think back at that time in history and it’s mind-boggling.”
With a worldly hockey experience, Viveiros quickly stepped behind the bench when his playing career concluded in 2007. He began coaching Klagenfurt AC in Austria the year after he played his final game for the team. In a 54-game season, Viveiros guided the team to a 38-12-4 record. A move to the front office of the team allowed him to continue learning things about the game he’d grown up playing and studying.
“When I retired from playing, I thought I knew everything about the game,” Viveiros said. “That was a rude awakening. You learn a completely different side of the game as a player compared to a coach and a teacher. At first, I thought that was really hard, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by really good people who helped me as a coach.”
His return to North America came in 2016-17 when Viveiros became the head coach of the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. In 2017-18, the Broncos won the WHL championship and competed in the tournament for the Memorial Cup. Viveiros led Swift Current to one of its most successful seasons and noticed how the town rallied around the team in the process.
A city of about 17,000 people, Swift Current would pack the Innovation Credit Union iPlex as capacity crowds of 3,000 people – roughly a sixth of the city – would cheer on the Broncos and create an atmosphere that Viveiros said was one of the most exciting in junior hockey.
As his focus becomes guiding the Henderson Silver Knights, Viveiros is ready to take his global hockey experience to the valley. Professional hockey teams are in the winning business and while winning is always the desire, Viveiros believes that will come from the strategies he’s developed for getting the best out of his players.
“My philosophy is about building relationships with players and helping them develop on the sports side of it but to also help them become better people outside of the game,” Viveiros said. “I’ve always used that as I’ve coached and that’s important with the staff I put together.”
By providing a positive environment for players to develop their own games for the betterment of the team, Viveiros said he’s excited to build trust with the Silver Knights’ players through consistency and honesty.
“From a player’s perspective, they’ve got to know that the coaches have their backs and they’re going to get the same people every day,” Viveiros said. “We’re going to try to get better every single day. It’s so important to have a culture and an environment where athletes come in and feel free to express themselves and where they can have helpful and honest conversations with their coaching staff.”