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Scout's Honor

Bill Dineen Won 2 Championships with the Seattle Totems, Fathered 5 Sons with NHL Connections and Drafted Ron Francis

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

The scene will play out at any number of 31 NHL training camps this fall. A club official or two will sit down with a player to inform him that despite a strong preseason, the player will not make the opening night roster. They will discuss next steps, such as playing for the club's American Hockey League affiliate or maybe returning to Junior A.

But no conversation will match the one NHL Seattle GM Ron Francis experienced as an 18-year-old rookie with the Hartford Whalers in 1981. Drafted fourth overall earlier in the year, Francis was called into an office to talk with the late Head Amateur Scout Bill Dineen and GM Larry Pleau. The topic: Francis was being returned to his junior team, the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds.

"I was disappointed," recalls Francis. "I was called into a room with Bill and Larry. Larry said he didn't want to rush in the process [of becoming an NHL player at 18]. He said he wanted to give me more time."

Francis smiles at the next memory:

"Bill was adamant that I make the team. Bill wanted to get me an NHL game. They were having that discussion right in front of me."

Pleau won the argument but Dineen turned out to be right.

Francis returned to his hometown Greyhounds to lead the Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 48 points (18 G, 30 A) in 25 games. Hartford called him for good on Nov. 14. Francis notched 68 points (25 G, 43 A) in 59 NHL games during the 1981-82 season.

The story gets better.

Not only did Dineen draft the new NHL Seattle General Manager and argue with his boss to keep Francis with the Whalers, but it turns out that Dineen's Seattle connections run much deeper. Dineen played for the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League for five seasons from 1964 through 1969. He and teammates such as Seattle hockey legend Guyle Fielder and longtime local resident Jim Powers won the WHL title in 1967. Dineen, Fielder and the Totems repeated the championship in the spring of 1968.

Dineen was father to six children, including five sons who all played and/or work in NHL front offices. The oldest child, Shawn Dineen, claims the only "legitimate memories" of watching Dad play for the Totems.

"We moved to Seattle when I was six," says Shawn, who is currently a pro scout for the Nashville Predators. "We lived up on Queen Anne hill. I went to school at St. Margaret's for grades one through six."

On a recent stop on the way to the NHL Draft in June, Shawn, his wife and his son toured the old neighborhood, including the Interbay baseball diamond that he frequented during summer when he wasn't playing ball hockey in the Queen Anne neighborhood.

Shawn says there were definitely perks being a child of Totems players.

"The NHL only had six teams back then, so lots of my dad's teammates had families," Shawn recalls. "All of us kids would skate before [Totems] practice and again after practice when the players went for a lunch and maybe a beer."

Shawn says he rarely missed a home game:

"I remember the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles and quite the rivalry with the Portland Buckaroos. Willie O'Ree [the NHL's first black player] skated for San Diego back then. Another rival was the WHL Vancouver Canucks."

The Totems were awarded a ring by the team when they won the 1967 WHL championship. The 1968 title came with championship watch.

"I have the ring," says Shawn, "but somehow the watch is missing in action."

The Dineen NHL experience is wide and deep. Bill played seven seasons, winning two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings in 1954 and 1955. Bill was head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 1991 to 1993.

One son, Gord, played for four NHL franchises from 1982 to 1995, with some seasons split between the NHL team and its American Hockey League affilitate. Gord, now retired from hockey, coached the Toronto Marlies, the famed top affiliate team of the Maple Leafs.

Kevin Dineen played for five NHL franchises from 1984 to 2002, including playing alongside Ron Francis with the Hartford Whalers and then again with Carolina Hurricanes. In fact, Kevin player for the team when it moved from Hartford to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Perhaps most famously, Kevin played for his father with the Philadelphia. Bill always called his son "Dineen" in front of Flyers players and avoided any 1-on-1 meetings with his son. Kevin helped the situation as one of the most respected players on the team by many accounts.

Peter Dineen played 13 NHL with Los Angeles and has served as a scout and assistant coach with NHL franchises. He is currently associate head coach of the Adirondack Thunder of the East Coast Hockey League. Brother Jerry is a long-time video coach with the New York Rangers.

Kevin was named head coach of the AHL San Diego this summer, working for the Anaheim Ducks organization. He won a Stanley Cup as a Blackhawks assistant in 2015. He was head coach of the Florida Panthers for two-plus seasons during 2011 to 2013.

Bill Dineen touched hundreds of NHL careers. As a head coach, be mentored the Adirondack Red Wings to two AHL championships before stepping down in 1989 to make way for young coach named Barry Melrose, who coached in the NHL, too, before his long and successful run as a hockey analyst for ESPN.

"Bill was a great coach and a better man," said Melrose when Dineen died in 2016 at age 84. "He helped me out a lot when I started coaching."

For his part, Shawn Dineen says his dad was an even better scout and talent evaluator.

"He was a 'feel' guy," says Shawn. "He did extremely well with his feel and eyes. His draft track record speaks for itself."

In 1973, Bill was head coach of the Houston Aeros in the upstart World Hockey Association professional league. He talked old pal and former Detroit teammate Gordie Howe out of retirement. Cleverly, he enticed Gordie by selling him on playing on the same pro team with sons Marty and Mark Howe.

One obstacle: Dineen had to convince other WHA owners to not only let Gordie play for the Aeros but also "draft" Mark, a promising 17-year-old at the time who went on a NHL Hall of Fame career.

"If you can't play for someone like Bill Dineen," says Mark Howe, "I don't know if there's any coach you can play for.

"Bill was pretty unique among the coaches I played for in my career. With most coaches, the players sit around together in the locker room or a bar after a loss and gripe about this or that thing about the coach. With Bill, when you lost, the players felt like they let him down. He was always in his players' corner. There was no ego, no politics. He cared about every one of his players, on the ice and as people."

Fittingly, Mark Howe played alongside an 18-year-old Ron Francis with the Whalers in 1981. Howe was incredulous when Larry Pleau returned the NHL Seattle GM to Sault St. Marie after training camp.

"He was amazing [in training camp]," recalls Howe. "Then they sent him back to Juniors. I was like, 'why did they do that?! We really need this guy.'"

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