William Patrick Dineen
Born: September 18, 1932 (Arvida, Québec)
Died: December 10, 2016 (Glens Falls, New York0
Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame (1990)
American Hockey League Hall of Fame (2014)
Bill Dineen skated alongside Gordie Howe and won hockey championships and he later coached Gordie Howe and won more championships.
Mr. Dineen was a journeyman player who found success behind the bench. As a coach, he was regarded more as a motivator than as a strategist.
Mr. Dineen, who has died at 84 at his home in Glen Falls, N.Y., enjoyed the rare privilege of coaching his own son in the NHL when he piloted the Philadelphia Flyers for 18 months. Kevin Dineen was one of the struggling club’s star players at the time.
As a player, Mr. Dineen won two Stanley Cup championships with Mr. Howe and the Detroit Red Wings in the 1950s. Later, he would win two World Hockey Association championships coaching Mr. Howe — and the ageless wonder’s two sons — with the Houston Aeros.
The right winger earned a colourful nickname early in his career as The Fox. “It comes from my days as a single guy,” he once said, “when I used to miss the odd curfew now and then.” Whatever his early reputation as a lady’s man, his marriage to the former Patricia Sheedy lasted 53 years until her death in 2010.
As a player, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder had a mediocre career in the NHL, though he scored an impressive 17 goals in his rookie season. It was in the minor leagues with the American Hockey League and the Western Hockey League where he showed a sharpshooter’s keen eye.
As a coach, Mr. Dineen eschewed ranting and raving in favour of a more avuncular approach. He had tremendous success behind the bench in the minors and the WHA, the upstart challenger to the NHL. When his perseverance at long last gained him an NHL head coaching spot, at age 59, he coaxed the sad-sack Flyers into playing .500 hockey in his season and a half at the helm.
William Patrick Dineen was born on Sept. 18, 1932, to the former Rose Mary Finnegan and Matthew Henry Dineen, who had studied civil engineering at McGill University, where he played for the Redmen varsity team. Bill Dineen was born in Quebec’s Saguenay region at Arvida, an aluminum smelter town named for the company’s president (Arthur Vining Davis). Mr. Dineen played junior hockey in Ottawa with the St. Pats before moving to Toronto to attend St. Michael’s, where he was captain of the team at age 20, scoring 27 goals in 55 games. Hap Emms, coach of a rival team, called him “the best junior hockey player in Canada.”
The promising forward got a signing bonus when he agreed to a two-year deal with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. He immediately jumped to the big league for the 1953-54 season and scored his first goal in his second game, slipping the puck past Harry Lumley of the Toronto Maple Leafs on an assist from defenceman Red Kelly in a 4-0 victory at the Olympia in Detroit. Mr. Dineen recorded 25 points in his rookie campaign, finishing tied for fourth (with goaltender Johnny Bower) in voting for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year behind winner Camille (The Eel) Henry and runners-up Earl (Dutch) Reibel, a Red Wings teammate, and the great Jean Beliveau.
Mr. Dineen had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup in his first two NHL seasons.
In 1957, he was part of an eight-player trade with the Chicago Black Hawks, a deal widely seen as punishment administered by Red Wings management for having been supportive of the formation of a players’ union. In six NHL seasons, he scored 51 goals and 44 assists. He had a goal and an assist in 37 playoff games.
The forward then spent 13 seasons in the minor leagues with the Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland Barons, Rochester Americans, Quebec Aces, Seattle Totems and Denver Spurs. He had his best professional season at age 34 when he scored 32 goals for the Totems and was named the Western Hockey League’s all-star left winger.
One oddity of Mr. Dineen’s playing career was being traded three times in the 1950s for Bashin’ Bob Bailey, a forward known for his stickhandling ability.
It was as a coach that Mr. Dineen excelled, beginning as a playing coach with the Denver Spurs in 1970. In 1972, he became coach of the Aeros in the fledgling WHA, building a team from scratch while introducing major-league hockey to Texas. As general manager, he coaxed Mr. Howe, a friend, out of retirement at age 45 to play alongside teenaged sons Mark and Marty Howe. Mr. Dineen was twice named the league’s coach of the year and is widely regarded as the defunct league’s best coach. He had 319 wins to 199 losses and 28 ties with the Aeros and Houston Whalers.
In 1983, he became coach of the minor-league Adirondack Red Wings, twice guiding the team to Calder Cup victories as American Hockey League champions and twice winning coach-of-the-year honours.
Mr. Dineen was head scout of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers when he replaced Paul Holmgren as coach in December, 1991. He was replaced as coach at the end of the 1992-93 season, having guided the Flyers to a 60-60-20 record during his tenure.
He was inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and the AHL Hall of Fame in 2014.
Mr. Dineen, who died on Dec. 10, leaves five sons, a daughter, 15 grandchildren, two sisters, and a brother. He was predeceased by his wife and two brothers.
All five of Mr. Dineen’s sons played professional hockey with three of them (Kevin, Peter and Gordon) skating in the NHL. Kevin Dineen also became an NHL coach and, in 2014, he guided the Canadian women’s hockey team to a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
December 26, 2016