You can play for miles and miles

by Todd Crocker || AHL On The Beat Archive

There is a social embrace that isn’t proven but is solidly followed, that we need to give kids roots. We need to provide stable, never-changing environments for them to get to the top and get the most out of their childhoods and hockey development. They need consistent friends right beside them that they can call on for life. The idea is that there needs to be a sameness to inspire greatness.

That this is so false it is amusing doesn’t seem to change our thinking on it.

“I think at one point my mom said we had 26 different ZIP codes growing up,” said Gord Dineen, assistant coach of the Toronto Marlies and son of new American Hockey League Hall of Fame member Bill Dineen.

To say the Dineens traveled is an understatement. Before any of the kids came along, Bill, who was born in Quebec, played junior for the St. Michael’s Majors. His move to the Detroit Red Wings could not have come at a better time as the powerhouse Wings were a team that featured Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Earl Reibel and the first Norris Trophy winner, Red Kelly. Calling them stacked might be a little bit shy of accurate.

Two Stanley Cups later, “Foxy” moved to Chicago to play with the Blackhawks for a short time before spending the rest of his career with teams in Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester, Quebec City, Seattle and Denver. It was during this time that Dineen’s family grew and began life on the hockey road with Dad.

“It was really all my mom,” says Gord. “She got us to all those new places, made sure we were signed up and at the rinks we were supposed to be.”

The Bill and Patricia Dineen lifelong road trip started out in Seattle and ended up on a quiet lake in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Along the way they created some talented, intelligent hockey people: Peter (Columbus) and Shawn (Nashville) are scouts for NHL teams, Jerry is the New York Rangers’ video coach, Kevin is the longtime NHL player and coach currently in Sochi leading the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team. Gord is the incredibly valuable assistant coach with Steve Spott’s Marlies.

“Gord’s pedigree is amazing to me,” said Spott. “To think that they moved around that much and still got the hockey education necessary to play, scout and coach at the top levels of hockey. I’m just thankful that kind of hockey history is in our room.”

The Marlies’ head coach refers to not just the miles traveled but the intelligence gained. Peter, Kevin and Gord all played in the NHL, and anyone who travels to the same rink every day, to all those tournaments year in year out with their kids, might wonder how they could have developed the skills necessary in places like Houston.

“I used to play keep-away with Gordie Howe,” recalled Gord, referring to the time his dad was head coach of Howe’s Houston Aeros in the WHA. That alone doesn’t explain the hockey sense, even though Howe was great.

The Dineens would go to British Columbia in the off-season and play the summer game. When the NHL called Gord in 1982 with the New York Islanders, his brother Peter had already been drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1980 but would spend eight years in the AHL before getting the call to the Los Angeles Kings for as short stint.

Before coaching at the NHL level Kevin played for Hartford, Philadelphia, Carolina, Ottawa and Columbus. He began coaching in Portland with the AHL’s Pirates and six years later found a job as a head coach in the NHL with Florida.

Bill Dineen took a turn behind an NHL bench with the Flyers (he was the oldest rookie coach ever) but it is in Glens Falls, N.Y., where he still turns heads and elicits hearty handshakes and broad smiles filled with Civic Center memories.

“There are still folks who come over when we are out to dinner in Glens Falls and talk to ‘Coach’ — no one ever seems to call him Bill up there,” Gord said. Bill won two Calder Cup championships (1986 and 1989) with the Adirondack Red Wings, and now finds a permanent place in the AHL Hall of Fame after his induction in St. John’s this week.

“It’s a great to see the recognition of the time he spent not just as a coach but as a player, a manager, a scout, and really for the footprint he set for us to do the same,” said Gord, who followed those steps right into coaching where he continues to help others grow in the game his family loves.

The Dineen family traveled the continent (and now beyond) in their pursuit of great hockey. However, they now have a home base where brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, grandkids and cousins can go every off-season near Glens Falls. It is the place where the dust settles until summer’s end, when the engine of hockey roars back to life and the open road, with many rinks in the distance, seems too good to pass up.

Think of that the next time your kids find themselves on a different team than their pals.