Hockey vs. cancer: 1-on-1 with Silver Knights Head Coach Manny Viveiros

Every November, the NHL holds Hockey Fights Cancer Month. It's an initiative that hits close to home to everybody, especially most recently with Silver Knights
Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 10:57 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Every November, the National Hockey League helps raise money and honors those past and present fighting cancer, with Hockey Fights Cancer Month.

It’s an initiative that hits close to home to everybody, especially most recently with Silver Knights Head Coach Manny Viveiros, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September.

“I was actually in the video room in a video meeting with our players and my other coaches were going through the video and for whatever reason my phone was lighting up,” explained Viveiros. “He said, ‘Manny I’ve got some bad news.’”

“For me it was completely a shock, one day you think you’re perfectly healthy, the next day you don’t know where you’re going or you don’t know where to go here.”

Prior to every season, players and coaches at both the NHL and American Hockey League level go through routine medical testing. A few days later, the Silver Knights bench boss heard from the doctors who said they needed to run some more tests. A few weeks later, just hours before the Silver Knights season opener, Manny Viveiros made public, what the organization new for weeks.

“Unfortunately I’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer. We’ve been trying at the very early stages of this to figure out a game plan going forward and now that we have one in place with the doctors and have an opportunity to go after this and treat this.”

“They were devastated when they heard the news, it was tough for them to hear,” remembered Silver Knights General Manager Tim Speltz. “He cares about his players first and they care about him back and they’ll do everything they can to be successful for Manny. That doesn’t mean they will be all the time, but they will try as hard as they can to be successful for him, there is no question about that.”

“For me it was hard, he’s a friend and a colleague, someone I’ve known for a long time,” explained Silver Knights assistant coach, Jaime Heward.

Heward has known Viveiros for nearly six years, he was on his staff for three seasons with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, before rejoining him in Henderson. Heward also served as the interim head coach during the first four games of the AHL season, using Manny as the teams motivation.

“Now you have a reason to dig in, a reason to play for someone you really care about and that can be your rallying cry during tough times. You need a reason to come to the rink, make Manny your reason to come to the rink every day, if you’re getting out the bed and you’re sore, remember how sore he is, remember all those things he’s going through.”

Even in the midst of treatment, Manny Viveiros continues to work, running practices at Lifeguard Arena and standing behind the bench.

“Do I not get as upset as I used to on the bench, no I still do, I still do,” joked Viveiros.

“The funny part is he says, ‘You guys make the line changes, I’m going to stand around and ease my way into it.’ Didn’t take him one shift,” explained Heward. “He called out the next shift and we looked at each other and we just said so much for easing into it Manny, he’s like, ‘I know, I know, I couldn’t help myself.’”

“Being here gives me that opportunity while I’m with the guys to put it away for a few hours a day,” explained Viveiros. “Not think about it and get back to doing what I love most, is being involved with hockey and coaching hockey.”

Viveiros not only has the support of the Silver Knights, but the entire Golden Knights organization as well.

“It hits close to home and he is in a fight right now and the prognosis looks positive, but it puts into perspective, if anything, some of these little things we’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” said Golden Knights Head Coach Pete DeBoer.

“He’s a brave man, I hope everything goes smooth,” said Golden Knights Defenseman Shea Theodore.

Theodore had his own battle, beating testicular cancer at the age of 25. Since then, the now 27-year-old has partnered with Susan G. Komen Nevada, helping create Kay’s Powerplay, named in honor of his grandmother, who battled breast cancer. Viveiros says he sees himself on a similar path to that of the Golden Knights defenseman.

“This is not about me, I don’t want this to be about me, it’s about everybody else. If I can help someone, help my boys, my players, my teammates. Get a test, get a simple test, it can save your life and we’re pretty confident it’s going to save mine. That’s something if I can help somebody else in any possible way, I want to do it. I want to be a positive spokesperson going forward, again it’s about everybody, I’m not the only one in the world going through this. If we can help someone going forward with early detection and to help beat this terrible disease, let’s do it.”

“Like anybody else I want to beat this and live a normal life as much as I possibly can, that’s what my goal is going forward.”

Viveiros says since being diagnosed, he has felt great. He will be taking a leave of absence in December, in advance of his surgery to remove the prostate. The recovery time is two to three weeks and he plans to be back behind the bench for the final stretch of the AHL season.