SUNRISE, Fla. — When Dave Tippett was asked to provide a good Kevin Dineen story Tuesday, he just laughed. And then he added, “All the dirt on Kev you couldn’t print.”
Tippett and Dineen shared a lot of good memories as teammates on the Canadian Olympic team and then with the Hartford Whalers.
Tuesday night they’ll be facing each other as NHL head coaches for the first time when Tippett’s Phoenix Coyotes face Dineen’s Florida Panthers.
“To watch how his career has evolved — he’s moved into the upper echelon of coaching in games played and in wins — is not surprising at all because he was always one step ahead of the game,” Dineen said. “A very well tought-of player and a very well-rounded player – he was always maybe looked at as a defensive guy, but he scored some huge goals for us back in the day in the Whaler green.”
Tippett, in his third season with the Coyotes, ranks second in coaching victories since the start of the 2002-03 season behind only Detroit’s Mike Babcock.
Dineen, meanwhile, is off to a great start in his first season behind the bench with the Panthers.
“He’s done a very good job,” said Tippett, who was in Dineen’s wedding. “I don’t say that just because he’s a good friend of mine. You see how hard their team competes, you see that they have some structure – they’re finding ways to win close games. Those are all the earmarks of a guy that’s doing a good job as coach. They’ve got a lot of new faces, they’ve got a lot of people that he had to bond very quickly and it looks like things are going well for him.”
Tippett said Dineen should merit Hall of Fame consideration for his work as a player. And he said Dineen’s teams play just like their coach.
“You knew, even his teams in the minors, they were going to compete hard, they were going to be teams that were well prepared,” Tippett said. “Kevin was a guy that never left anything in the dressing room. When he went on the ice, it was to play hard and you can see his team, that’s the way they compete.”
For Dineen, facing a good friend is nothing new. He went through the same thing on Nov. 3 when the Panthers played host to the Chicago Blackhawks and Coach Joel Quenneville, who happened to be his best man.
Dineen can only hope for a better result this time — the Panthers lost to Chicago, 3-2, in a shootout.
For Tippett, he’s hoping his team can rebound from a tough 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Saturday when Brad Richards scored with one-tenth of a second left in regulation.
“That story is getting a little old there; it seems like every coach in this League was in my wedding,” Dineen said. “I’ve got lots of brothers that are out there and I’ve got a lot of great friends that have been extremely fortunate to make a living in this game.
“It’s nice when they’re in the other conference. We play them once this year. I was certainly disappointed to see how (Tippett’s) last game ended. I think that makes for a much tougher game for us when you have a team that’s going to be as grumpy as they are coming in to play tonight. We’ll have our hands full with that team.”