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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Kevin Dineen (Photo: Getty Images)
Kevin Dineen knew he was in the right place.

As he walked around downtown Buffalo the feeling only became stronger.

“Everywhere I went there were guys wearing Sabres jerseys… in early September!” the head coach of the Portland Pirates said. “With football season underway and the Buffalo Bills off to a good start, that really says something about the hockey culture here.

“People talk highly of it and you can see why.”

Resigning with the Pirates this summer for his fourth year behind Portland’s bench, Dineen enters a new era as part of the AHL affiliate for the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo ended their 29-year relationship with the Rochester Americans earlier this summer, naming Portland as their successor on June 10.

With training camp now underway at HSBC Arena, Dineen welcomes the new challenge of not only gauging a new set of prospects, but the system that the Sabres employ as well.

“It’s interesting,” Dineen said. “I had a good conversation with Lindy [Ruff] and some of the things that they do system-wise are the way we did things in Portland as well. There are always differences in personnel, but it’s hockey. We will get a chance to spend time together and I think the transition will be smooth.

“It’s a great opportunity and I’m still in the learning stages so I’m excited to get my hands into it and get a feel for what the expectations are as far as style of play. Hopefully when a player goes from Portland to Buffalo…they will have a solid foundation.”

Dineen has already had some ties to Buffalo during his time in Portland.

He coached Ryan Miller’s brother Drew (Anaheim's 6th round choice in 2003, 186th overall) as well as Andrew Peters’ brother Geoff (Chicago’s 2nd round choice in 1996, 46th overall) when the Pirates were the Anaheim Ducks’ affiliate.

He also has Tyler Bouck.

As the only player to remain with Portland after the shift in affiliation, Dineen will rely on Bouck to act as a liason between the coaching staff and team.

“The lines of communication are always open and we like to make sure that whether it’s a veteran or young player, they know that they always have access to us,” Dineen said. “But sometimes a guy like Tyler does a good job because he can detect if a young player is a little bit sensitive in approaching a coach and will take care of it, help him out.

“He is a quality player but even a better individual.”

Bouck served as the Pirates’ captain last season, finishing with 11 goals and 29 points.

“He's an honest coach,” Bouck said of Dineen. “If you play hard for him he is going to reward you… so you have to make sure you are working hard.”

Dineen demands it. 

“I think one thing we always have is that our guys come to play,” he said. “There aren’t any nights off and it’s a hard thing to do in the AHL level because a lot of times you are playing three games in three nights… four in five… seven in 10. It’s ridiculous the way the scheduling goes sometimes. But night in and night out I think our team has had an identity of being a tough team to play against.

“We’ve had some decent success over the past few years and hopefully we can get that positive atmosphere and that front going into this year.”

He also hopes to bring some of the enthusiasm from Buffalo.

"I think what you are going to find is that the players are going to love the city of Portland, and that’s been my experience for three years- that the guys really embrace not only the town and everything it has to offer, but the fan-base as well.

“It’s a hockey town and there is a good atmosphere at the amateur, college and professional level. Also being close to the Boston Bruins – that connection, and history between the Bruins and the Sabres – will create a buzz.

"Overall when you look at it, I think that makes for a good fit."
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