BY PAUL GAZZOLA
If it weren't for Glen Gulutzan's vehicle needing repairs, their assembly could have begun on time. When the elevator doors of Studio 99 split, only two of three Oilers assistant coaches emerge.
In an Oilers cap and tracksuit is Trent Yawney, also known as Yawns. He hails from Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, and even without skates on, one could confuse Yawns for having skates on. He hovers around 6-foot-4 and can cover a large area of ice. He was a Hudson Bay celebrity, playing his junior hockey alongside Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan for the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades. Drafted by Chicago 45th-overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, the large defenceman patrolled bluelines for the Blackhawks, Flames and Blues, racking up 783 PIMs in 593 career NHL games from 1987 to '99.
Due to his size, Yawns' presence is almost always known. He was a hard-nosed defender and the thought of crossing lanes with him on the ice is unpleasant but off it is quite the contrary. With 12 playing seasons in the NHL and 18 years of coaching professionally, Yawns has achieved defensive sensei status. When he shares his wisdom with players, it's direct and honest.
Manny Viveiros is a stride behind in an Oilers half-zip and track pants. His real name is Emanuel but at the rink, most people refer to him as either Manny or Viv. Manny is shorter than Yawney, everyone is, and maintains a stiff build. He was a "hot rod" defenceman, those being Gulutzan's words (who is still absent) and would face off against Yawney and McLellan when his Prince Albert Raiders played the Blades. He was drafted by his hometown Edmonton Oilers 106th-overall in '84, the same year Yawney was drafted, but spent most of his playing career overseas in Austria.
On game days, Manny wears three-piece fitted suits in tones ranging from burgundy to pastel blue and as a defenceman in Austria, he was flashy, too, notching 50 or more points in four separate campaigns. Manny also scored one NHL goal and put up 12 points in 29 career games over three seasons with the Minnesota North Stars. "A dream come true," the St. Albert native answered when asked about getting selected by his hometown Oilers. But with rearguards like Paul Coffey, Charlie Huddy and Kevin Lowe at training camp, "There was no chance."
Gulutzan's nonappearance presents a roadblock. This occasion was supposed to be the assistant coaches' crossroads. An opportunity to gather in Studio 99 for a sit-down to talk about their tenure with the Oilers organization thus far, their coaching backgrounds, philosophies, styles, how to manage certain players in certain situations and how to manage certain situations with certain players.