Hockey

Tim Wharnsby - Tuesday Feb. 4, 2014 16:52 ET

Kevin Dineen learns Team Canada's women's hockey players are curious bunch

Players asking plenty of questions of new Team Canada coach

Alex Carpenter of the U.S. and Canadian Meaghan Mikkelson
Canada has lost three straight games to the U.S. under coach Kevin Dineen. (Getty)

Sure, Kevin Dineen has had to curb his curse words in his seven-week crash course at the helm of the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team.

He simply can’t employ the same barrage of blue language that occasionally spewed from his mouth when he coached the Florida Panthers or the Portland Pirates of the AHL.

Dineen recalled a camera crew once followed him around in Portland. The f-word tally from his pre-game speech was in the neighbourhood of 30.

Now, he's much more careful with his language.

“I had no clue,” he said on Tuesday, after the Canadian women held its first on-ice session since they arrived in Sochi last Saturday. “You don’t even think about it. In the end, you live and learn.”

Dineen was pleased to report that he’s eliminated the profanity from his instruction and encouragement to the Canadian women. Well, almost completely.

“Okay, maybe one or two in between periods,” the 50-year-old Dineen confessed.

For Dineen, the biggest difference between coaching in the NHL and the Canadian women’s team has been the women have been downright nosey.

When Dineen coached the Panthers or Pirates, he could instruct his players to do this or do that in practice and they would acquiesce without a word.

The Canadian women, on the other hand, have been inquisitive. They’re students of the game. When Dineen demands that a player be in a certain position on the forecheck or where he wants a player to be defending in their own end, they want to know why.

“People ask me what is the biggest difference between men’s and women’s hockey,” Dineen said. “This is a group that is really interested to know why. They want to know what the thinking is.

“For me, that’s great. I love talking hockey. I’ll talk all day long, whether it’s a strategic thing or a personnel decision, those kinds of things, those everyday decisions. Usually, you have to be on top of your game because everybody wants an answer for your decisions within the group.

“This is a real cerebral bunch. They take in a lot. There are some real good questions that come back at you. When we talk about things you see immediate execution.”

Olympic memories

For Dineen, the scene in Sochi has rekindled memories of his own Olympic experience when he played for Canada at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games.

“You remember the feeling of what it’s like to be surrounded by so many incredible athletes,” he said. “There’s such an enthusiasm in that [Athletes'] village right now and the puck hasn’t dropped or the gun hasn’t gone off in whatever discipline you’re involved in. Right now is a great time for everybody involved.”

It hasn’t been a great time for the Canadian women’s team, which has won gold at the last three Olympics, in the past few months. After the Canadian women edged the rival United States 3-2 in Burlington, VT. on Oct. 12, they have been beaten on five consecutive occasions by the U.S.

Dineen was named the new coach of the Canadian women’s team on Dec. 17 after the still unsolved mystery of why a tearful Dan Church resigned from his dream job with 57 days before the start of the Winter Olympics.

With Dineen behind the bench, Canada suffered three losses to the U.S. The last outing between the adversaries was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Dec. 30, when the U.S. jumped out to a three-goal lead in the second period and hung on for a 3-2 win.

Since then, the Canadian team returned to Calgary for more prep time and on its way here stopped in St. Polten, Austria for a 10-day camp at the Okanagan Hockey Academy Europe. Dineen likes the way his group has responded.

“There are areas that we continue to talk about, but I say that in a positive way,” the Quebec City native said. “We have some real strengths in our offensive game. On the other side of the game, we want to have good balance.

“I think we’re on the right page.

“I think we’ve enjoyed each other’s company. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve really picked up a lot of things through being associated with Team Canada and this group of players. I hope they feel the same way that we’ve been able to exchange some good ideas and that has made it fun to come to the rink every day.”

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