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Silver Knights coach returns for 1st game since cancer diagnosis

Updated October 29, 2021 - 10:27 pm

Manny Viveiros has made the walk from the tunnel below Section 108 at Orleans Arena to the home bench 22 times since becoming the Silver Knights’ coach last season.

Friday’s journey didn’t look any different. But it was.

Viveiros took his spot in the middle of the Silver Knights’ bench — assistant Joel Ward flanking him on one side, assistant Jamie Heward and goaltending coach Fred Brathwaite on the other — for the first time this season, a day after revealing he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The news caused him to take a leave of absence to begin the season, and he will need to take another in December for surgery.

On Friday, though, he was back leading his team in a 3-2 loss to the Bakersfield Condors.

“The best place for me to be right now is back here with my team while I can do it,” Viveiros said. “We lost the game today, but for me, from a selfish point of view, I’m glad I’m here. I know our teammates and our coaching staff are unhappy, but at least I get to share that emotion with them.”

Hockey is the thread that connects Viveiros’ life.

He started playing before he was 5. He met his wife in junior hockey. His sons play the sport.

Viveiros, 55, has had a lengthy career playing and coaching. He’s reached the NHL as a player and as an assistant and won a division title in his first American Hockey League season with the Silver Knights.

One blood test then changed everything. A routine training camp physical this fall led to Viveiros’ diagnosis.

He took a medical leave of absence to undergo additional tests and determine the stage of the cancer. Last week, he said he got “really good news” that it has not spread. He said he feels “absolutely fine,” has no side effects and is optimistic he won’t miss much time in December.

“For me, the hardest part, not just for myself, especially for my family, was not knowing,” Viveiros said. “Now we know, and we’re going to do whatever we can to meet this head-on and hopefully we can beat this.”

Having a plan led Viveiros back to what he loves.

He rejoined the Silver Knights before a two-game series against Bakersfield. Center Paul Cotter and defenseman Brayden Pachal praised Viveiros’ communication and ability to adapt his methods to players. Cotter said Viveiros is “one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”

“A lot of coaches only care about winning,” Pachal said. “Manny genuinely cares about you as a person. It’s pretty amazing to play for a guy like that.”

Viveiros’ skills will be put to the test upon his return because the Silver Knights are nursing injuries. It showed in their Nevada Day performance — featuring special blue jerseys styled after the state flag — as they were outshot 42-15.

That was secondary to Viveiros, who said he’s had many people reach out to him since his diagnosis. He was back where he belonged Friday. His adrenaline was pumping again.

“One thing I’ve learned in this short period of time is that you’re not alone,” Viveiros said. “You certainly don’t want to ever be in that type of situation, but also hopefully someday I’ll be in that situation to support someone else that has to go through this.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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