The shocking news that Manny Viveiros was going to take a leave of absence as head coach of the Henderson Silver Knights was shocking when the team made it public Friday just hours prior to puck drop for its season opener against the Colorado Eagles.
But Viveiros’ staff knew nearly a week before he was dealing with some health issues. So when Viveiros left the team, his assistants were ready to take over.
“Manny had been communicating with us the past six, seven days,” said assistant Jamie Heward, who was named the Silver Knights interim coach and was behind the bench for Henderson’s 5-4 shootout win over Colorado at the Orleans Arena. “Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with Manny. But we have a great group of kids. The majority of them have been with us for 1 1/2 years and they know how to be professionals.”
The players were obviously caught by surprise by the news and they responded with a strong effort.
“This win was for him,” said goaltender Logan Thompson, who got better as the game went along and made 47 saves. “We hope he gets better soon and gets back on the bench.”
Heward said the staff was able to keep things on an even keel and have the players ready.
“It’s been in the works,” he said of the staff knowing what it was going be dealing with. “I think what helps is the players are comfortable with the system and the coaching staff and they were very professional in dealing with a difficult situation.”
The Silver Knights were whistled for nine penalties and Colorado cashed in twice on the power play. Heward said the number of calls were probably attributed to the officials calling things tight and a little extra adrenaline pumping through everyone with it being opening night.
“We tried to get the penalties out of the way in the preseason and we tried to make them aware of the rules being enforced on cross checking (there were three of those calls made, two going against the Silver Knights) and they called what they saw,” he said. “It’s an adjustment for all the NHL players and all the AHL players.
“Sometimes the emotions of the game take over. The blood gets pumping. We obviously don’t want to be taking that many penalties and we’ll address it moving forward and try and cut down on the number. That’s not the situation we want to be in.”
The Silver Knights did not say what Viveiros’ health issues are and how long he’ll be away from the team. But Heward said everyone’s aware of the situation and will make sure the focus is on hockey.
“Right now, we’re missing some people,” he said. I think we’ll be a good group once we get everyone healthy. But we’ve always been a hard-working team and I don’t see that changing.”