Kevin Dineen must hit ground running as Canada's women's coach
Takes over women's hockey team for Dan Church
Having played 1,188 games in the NHL and coached in both the NHL and AHL, it is to safe to say Kevin Dineen knows a thing or two about hockey.
But what the heck does he know about women’s hockey?
“I know a lot more about it today than I did 48 hours ago,” said Dineen with a laugh on the day he was announced as the new head coach for Canada’s women’s Olympic hockey team.
“I had a chance to watch a little video on the flight [to Calgary] from Toronto. I guess I just relate to my own experiences. I have a daughter, Hannah, who plays college hockey and I have spent a ton of time on the ice with her and her girls’ select teams her over the past five years.”
Hannah Dineen attends Colby College in Maine. Her father said being involved with his daughter’s hockey teams over the years allowed him an opportunity to see the competitive nature and intensity that women bring to the game.
“I had a pretty good look at it, but nothing like I saw on the ice today,” Dineen added. “The girls were very impressive.”
Dineen replaces Dan Church, who resigned from the team last week, and put his new club through its paces in Calgary Tuesday.
There had been all kinds of speculation as to who would replace Church, with such names as former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, McGill Martlets coach Peter Smith, former NHLer Ryan Walter and Calgary Inferno (CWHL) Tim Bothwell mentioned.
There was even talk that the team’s general manager, Melody Davidson, would step back behind the bench although she insisted all along she is not interested in the job. Davidson coached Canada to gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games.
The team’s two assistant coaches, Danielle Goyette and Lisa Haley, will continue to assist Dineen.
Dineen started this season behind the bench of the NHL Florida Panthers, but he was fired Nov. 8 after getting off to a 3-9-4 start.
With less than two months before the Olympic Games, Dineen will have to acclimatize himself with the team’s personnel quickly. The team still has three goalies – the three that will go to Sochi – as well as seven players on defence and 14 forwards. There are three more cuts yet to come.
There is tremendous pressure on Canada to win a gold medal in Sochi. Canada has won gold at the past three Winter Olympics including in 2010 in Vancouver. As usual, Canada’s greatest competition comes from the United States.
Plenty of challenges ahead
Dineen knows he faces a lot of challenges with very little time before the Games.
“This ship has been moving for quite a while,” Dineen said. “I mean these athletes have done an incredible job to get their preparation going. We have 52 days left until we drop the puck in Sochi, so it’s a matter of understanding what the short-term goals are. The staff here has done an amazing job preparing the team, but I do feel there are a few tweaks I can instill to help us strive for success.”
Dineen said Team Canada has the best athletes in the world in their chosen field and his wish is for them to be able to use their skill.
“You like having the puck and you want to play a game that has a speed to it,” he said. “But let’s not forget there is a Canadian element that has to do with compete and that means when we get into one-on-one confrontations where somebody is going to come out with the puck; we are going to be the team that comes out with it more often than not.”
Dineen, 50, coached the Panthers for most of the past three seasons, holding a 56-62-28 record with a .474 winning percentage. Given what he had to work with in an organization that is rebuilding, that was actually a decent record.
“We’re very excited that Kevin will be joining the coaching staff of the Canadian National Women’s Team and bring his unique perspective to the dressing room,” said Scott Smith, Hockey Canada’s CEO. “Kevin has had success both in the AHL and NHL and we’re looking forward to him being part of the staff for the final push toward Sochi.”
Dineen has plenty of international hockey experience as a player, having represented Canada six times on the world stage. He played in four world championship tournaments; helped Canada win the Canada Cup in 1987 and participated in the Olympic Games in 1984 in Sarajevo. Canada finished fourth at that event.
Dineen will make his debut with Canada as it continues with its exhibition series against the U.S. Friday in Grand Forks, N.D., and will play its first game at the Olympics Feb. 8 against Switzerland.