Viveiros back home with Oilers

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Manny Viveiros has skated full circle in a whirlwind hockey career.

The 1984 draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers has been hired by the National Hockey League team as an assistant coach.

“Being from St. Albert I’ve always been an Oilers’ fan so to speak, all the way through watching them even in the old WHA days,” said Viveiros, a former Gazette paper boy who grew up in Braeside and kept a house in St. Albert (“It’s our home base for our family”) while playing and coaching overseas as well as the past two seasons guiding the Swift Current Broncos.

“For myself and my wife it checked all the boxes,” Viveiros added of the homecoming. “And more importantly too the organization, the Oilers, we think the team is really good again and that’s something very positive and as a coach and a player to have an opportunity to win that’s certainly something very exciting about this opportunity.”

Viveiros, 52, coached in Germany and Austria from 2006 to 2016 and was the head coach of the Austrian Eagles at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

After going 48-17-7 in the regular season en route to winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup, Viveiros left the Broncos for another shot at the NHL.

“Obviously that is the ultimate goal, to always get to the highest possible level you can,” said Viveiros, who played 29 NHL games as a defenceman with the Minnesota North Stars.

Viveiros joins Glen Gulutzan and Trent Yawney, both former NHL head coaches, as newcomers to Todd McLellan’s coaching staff on the Oilers.

“It’s going to be a collective group effort of everybody. Obviously Todd is the head coach but with the other assistants we’re going to be working together in all areas. It’s not one specific area for one coach. A good coaching staff is always a team effort,” said Viveiros, who compiled an 87-40-17 overall record with Broncos while also serving as the team’s director of player personnel.

“I was very blessed to have two really good seasons in the Western Hockey League,” said the 2018 WHL coach of the year. “It’s a team award. I’m very blessed to have a good coaching staff and a good team to work with for me. It’s a collective group, a collective team effort.”

The first WHL championship in 25 years for the Broncos included two game-seven series and two game-six series. Six games were also decided in overtime: four in the first OT, one in double OT and another in triple OT.

“First and foremost I’m so proud of our kids. Throughout that whole season, and especially during the playoffs, it was quite a grind. We played the most games (26) in the history of the CHL for a team to get to the Memorial Cup. The amount of overtimes we had, and different adversities that the kids had to face through the whole time, I’m really proud of the way they reacted in every situation,” Viveiros said. “We deserved to win the championship because of the way the kids played throughout the whole playoffs. It was an honour and a very prestigious trophy to win.”

Viveiros, who played four seasons with the Prince Albert Raiders while celebrating WHL and Memorial Cup championships in 1985, relished the opportunity to coach in the junior ranks after several years in Europe.

“Coaching-wise it’s a little bit different as far as first of all dealing with professional players compared to kids of ages from 16 to 20. It’s a little bit different dynamics as far as the maturity level of players that you are dealing with but it was so positive in so many ways,” Viveiros said. “I always said if there was an opportunity to come back and coach in junior hockey I would and I certainly feel it made me a better coach, a better teacher so to speak, but the hockey part of it, it’s not a huge transition. Hockey is hockey.”

Viveiros spent 17 seasons in Europe as a player, including 13 in Austria and his seventh year in Germany with Klagenfurter AC he retired in mid-season because of a back injury and later took over the team as the interim coach for the last 10 games and was then asked to continue as the bench boss.

“For me it was very valuable or fulfilling because you get an opportunity not just to see one aspect of the game. There are so many different styles especially when you have an opportunity to work with the Austrian national team you get to see different things as far as how the Russians do things, how they play the game and how they practice. The same for Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia. You’ve got in a real close proximity to that opportunity to see how different countries, or hockey cultures, work with their kids or their teams and their programs so it’s an opportunity to take different things from different cultures, from different countries and for me that was an opportunity to really learn,” said the winner of four Austrian championships as a player and who coached Klagenfurt to the league title in 2009.

The Austrian citizen was also among a handful of players who lobbied the International Ice Hockey Federation for permission to play for a country other than their own at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. The IIHF had forbidden players who had already played for one nation to skate for another nation and Viveiros was a member of the Team Canada silver medallists at the 1986 World Junior Championship. He was however allowed to represent Austria at the 2005 worlds in Vienna, two years after the IIHF decided to review its rules and now a foreign player can represent another national team if he has played four straight seasons in the domestic league of his adopted country.

In St. Albert minor hockey, Viveiros remembers vividly playing in the Quebec international peewee tournament and winning the MVP award at the bantam AAA Sabres tournament.

After a 10-game stint with the St. Albert Saints in 1981/82, Viveiros left home the following season at age 16 to play for Prince Albert and in 1986 was the co-recipient of the WHL player of the year award with Rob Brown of St. Albert, who played for the Kamloops Blazers.

In four WHL seasons, Viveiros amassed 60 goals and 261 assists in 251 league games, including 22 goals and 70 assists in 57 games in his final 1986 season.

The sixth round (106th overall) pick by the Oilers was dealt to Minnesota in a five-player transaction Dec. 20, 1985 and with the North Stars scored one goal and had 11 assists in 29 NHL games spread over three seasons.

His minor league career was split between the Springfield Indians (nine goals, 66 points in 124 games) in the American Hockey League and the Kalamazoo Wings (26 goals, 103 points in 111 games) and Albany Choppers (three goals, 10 points in 14 games) in the International Hockey League.

Asked what his career highlight was, Viveiros said: “You know what? That’s tough, really tough to say. This year was such a rewarding year as far as how we did team-wise. Also reaching the Olympics, maybe the Calder Cup (in 1991 with Springfield) or winning the Memorial Cup as a player (with Prince Albert in 1985) as well but for me this year the biggest thing was my son (Layne, a defenceman) scoring the winning goal for the Austrian national team (in the 4-0 win over Belarus at worlds in Denmark) to stay up in the A group. I was more proud of that than anything I accomplished as a coach this year with the team. I’m so proud of my son.”

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.