Gary Dineen was a fantastic student of the game. His career was impressive and important, even though he only in four NHL games.
Born in Montreal on Christmas Eve, 1943. He grew up playing the game in Montreal, starring at Loyola high school. In 1960 he moved to Toronto to play for Father David Bauer's famous St. Michael's College team. Playing with the likes of Pete Stemkowksi, Mike Walton, Ron Ellis, Rod Seiling, and Wayne Carleton, St. Mikes won the Memorial Cup in 1964.
While many of Dineen's St. Mike's teammates went on to the NHL, Dineen decided to follow Father Bauer and take a different route. He would join the Canadian national team and ply his trade in international arenas while also continuing his education. He competed at two World Championships and the 1964 and 1968 Olympics.
Dineen finally turn pro in the 1968-69 season, though he mainly bounced around the minor leagues, winning the Calder Cup with the Springfield Kings in 1971. He did get in to four NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars in 1969.
Dineen retired after winning the Calder Cup in 1971, thanks in part to a knee injury. He and his family stayed in Springfield, becoming a top youth coach in the style of Father Bauer. That would be his ultimate hockey legacy. Stressing hockey but also education and life experiences, twenty-six of his students went on to the National Hockey League (including Bill Guerin, Dean Lombardi, Chris Clark, Ron Hainsey, Mike Komisarek and Scott Lachance) and more than 300 earning college scholarships.
"He was like another father to me." Guerin said. "He had an effect on so many people's lives, and he treated everyone the same. And the junior program didn't start out to help players turn pro - it started out to give players a chance to go to college through hockey. It just turned out to be so good that some guys had a chance to go pro."
Matt Anderson, another student who attended the University of Massachusetts, echoed Guerin's comments.
"Gary didn't teach hockey lessons, he taught life lessons," Anderson said. "His principles were in order - family, academics, and then hockey. He was a man of few words, but when he spoke you listened. I can't even think back to how much he helped me when I was going through personal tough times of my own."
Dineen later returned to the pros as manager and coach of the Springfield Falcons until his death in 2006. He was 62 years old and had been battling cancer for the previous ten years.
Gary Dineen was inducted to the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame, in addition to being honored with the USA Hockey Presidents Award and the American Hockey Coaches Association's "Snooks Kelley Award.