Hockey was in Kevin Dineen's blood. His father, Bill Dineen, was a longtime coach in the NHL, World Hockey Association and American Hockey League; one brother, Gord Dineen, was a longtime NHL defenseman, and another, Peter Dineen, played 13 NHL games as a defenseman in the late 1980s.
The Hartford Whalers selected Kevin Dineen, a forward, in the third round (No. 56) of the 1982 NHL Draft after his first season at the University of Denver. He played one more season with Denver, played for Canada's national and Olympic teams in 1983-84 and began the 1984-85 season with Binghamton of the AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Whalers on Dec. 3, 1984, against the Montreal Canadiens, and scored his first NHL goal 12 days later, also against the Canadiens.