When the Spokane Chiefs’ virtual meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon was rescheduled to be a morning meeting instead, Luke Toporowski figured there was something important to be said.
He was right.
Manny Viveiros, the Chiefs’ head coach, had taken another job. And Toporowski said he couldn’t be happier for him.
“He was there for all of us whether it was on or off the ice,” said Toporowski, the Chiefs’ 19-year-old forward. “That’s the kind of coach and the kind of guy he is. I know all of us would go through a wall for Manny, and that’s why we’re so understanding of him taking this job.”
Viveiros is now the head coach of the Henderson Silver Knights, a new franchise that will be the American Hockey League affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights. Henderson, Nevada, is a suburb of Las Vegas.
The AHL’s anticipated start date for the 2020-21 season is Dec. 4 – the same day the Western Hockey League hopes to begin regular-season play.
It will be the 54-year-old Viveiros’ fourth different coaching job in the last four seasons: He won a WHL championship as Swift Current’s head coach in 2017-18 and left to become an assistant for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers in 2018-19 before taking over as Spokane’s head coach last summer.
Viveiros said Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon first approached him about his interest in the job about two months ago. Viveiros told him he was.
“You always want to get to the highest level as you possibly can,” Viveiros said, and that it could be “a stepping stone to possibly becoming a head coach in the NHL, which is my goal.”
When the pandemic led to the WHL’s shutdown in March and, ultimately, the cancellation of its postseason, Viveiros had the Chiefs on a tear: They won 16 of their final 17 games and had the third-best record in the Western Conference.
Now Chiefs general manager Scott Carter will be hiring a coach for the second straight summer and third time overall since he became general manager in September 2016.
After finishing 27-33-8-4 and missing the playoffs in 2016-17 for the first time in 11 years, the Chiefs parted ways with coach Don Nachbaur after seven seasons with him at the helm.
Carter hired Dan Lambert – who won a WHL championship with Kelowna in 2015 – to replace Nachbaur, and in Lambert’s two years the Chiefs went a combined 81-46-5-8, advancing as far as the Western Conference finals in 2018-19.
On June 4, 2019, Lambert resigned as head coach after two seasons in Spokane to become an assistant coach for the Nashville Predators, a position he still holds. Viveiros was hired to replace him about a month later, on July 9, 2019, and in his one season the Chiefs went 41-18-4-1.
Carter said throughout this process he, McCrimmon and Viveiros stayed in communication and that “we felt that we probably were gonna lose him.”
“Manny’s done a great job,” Carter said. “The way our team was playing at the end really showed that.”
Carter expected a much shorter hiring process than last summer’s.
“I think we’ll get something done within this week,” he said.
Viveiros said he enjoyed his time in Spokane.
“It is bittersweet,” Viveiros said of leaving the Chiefs. “The bitter part is leaving a great city, a great organization, and the (players) are awesome. I always say I learn more from them than they learn from me.”
“But then you get the chance to move up,” he said, “and that’s just the nature of what our business is.”
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