A lot of readers around here won’t remember Emanuel Viveiros, which isn’t surprising because many of you weren’t even born when he was a big deal with the Prince Albert Raiders. That was 1985-86, when Viveiros, a puck-moving blueliner with a knack for producing points, was named WHL Player of the Year. Mercy, Manny could flat-out play.
The Edmonton Oilers thought so, too, selecting the five-foot-11, 160-pound native of St. Albert 106th overall in 1984 after he had a 109-point season with the Raiders. Viveiros never played a single game with the Oilers, got traded to Minnesota in December 1986 and then headed for Europe after playing 29 games over parts of three seasons with the North Stars.
Viveiros was in his final season with the Raiders when I was in my first writing about the Blazers in Kamloops. I knew Viveiros had landed in Swift Current as head coach of the Broncos before the 2016-17 season after decades playing and coaching over in Europe, but I hadn’t given him much thought until this week, when Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer made a point of mentioning him more than once.
It was a reference Wednesday that caught my ear. First, Stauffer, who seldom drops names just for fun, referred to Viveiros as a “Rising coaching star in the WHL.” Later in the same show, Swift Current goaltender Stuart Skinner added: “Manny is amazing. He’s a super-positive guy, an amazing coach . . . there’s no secret that he’s definitely the best coach in the WHL and obviously rising into a higher level.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Viveiros, now 52, took over from former Oiler Mark Lamb in Swift Current. He coached the Broncos to a 39-23-0-10 record last season before his team was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. As of Thursday, Viveiros had the Broncos in the mix again, sitting second behind Moose Jaw in the East Division at 36-12-3-1.
Talk to people around the WHL and they’ll tell you Viveiros is a coach who knows how to develop defencemen and somebody with a philosophy of breeding offensive confidence in his players. Hockey people will also tell you it’s only a matter of time until NHL teams looking for an AHL bench boss come calling on him – I won’t be surprised if that happens as early as this summer.
Todd McLellan began his ascent to the pro ranks after spending six years behind the bench in Swift Current. He worked a year as the head coach in Cleveland of the now-defunct IHL before spending four years in Houston. That got McLellan a job as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings and the rest we know.
I wonder, given that Edmonton has young blueline prospects in the AHL right now in Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones and have a guy like forward Tyler Benson on the way from the Vancouver Giants, if Viveiros might be seen as an intriguing possibility by the Oilers. You’d think so. Might he be a fit with the Condors in Bakersfield? The more I hear his name, the more I wonder. Stay tuned.
WHILE I’M AT IT
Way too much of a fuss was made about Al Montoya declining to speak to reporters after Thursday’s morning skate about this start against the Colorado Avalanche. Much of it was generated by a questionably worded Tweet by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, although other media members complained as well.
Al Montoya doesn’t talk on game days. Needs to focus. Only Oiler who does this. Why should it be different for him? Only conclusion is that he’s more fragile in his preparation, or he’s ducking responsibility with this silly loophole. Neither are great qualities for a goalie.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) February 1, 2018
Rishaug later apologized for the wording of the Tweet, which was characterized by many as insensitive and a cheap shot. I don’t believe that was his intent, but the fall-out it generated is an aspect of the immediacy of social media that can bite you once in a while. Rishaug has a job to do and he was ticked off about not getting what he came for. That happened to me many times during my years writing hockey.
The difference is there was no Twitter until my final season on the beat, 2006-07. If somebody didn’t want to talk and I didn’t like it, too bad. There was no way of getting that out there right away the way every person in the room can now. While I don’t recall ever getting anything worth squat from a starting goaltender at a morning skate, it was my job to try. No different for Rishaug.
Reporters getting blown off by somebody they wanted to talk to pre-game might whine and moan about it to the team media relations staff a bit, but it was usually forgotten by the time the puck dropped that night. Now, you bash something off and hit the send button. That initial reaction, as we see time and again, doesn’t always play very well.
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