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Sports Commentary 6/2/11

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Scott on Kevin Dineen’s Hiring as Head Coach of the Florida Panthers of the NHL Yesterday.

A kid from Glastonbury High School is involved in a game of one on one with LeBron James. James already has a big lead. Barely anyone in Miami noticed yesterday when Kevin Dineen was named head coach of the National Hockey League Florida Panthers. They were too wrapped up in LeBron’s Heat and the NBA championship series, which resumes tonight. Normally an NHL team wouldn’t name a new coach on the same day a Stanley Cup final game is played, but in this case it made far more sense to announce on the day the Canucks and Bruins opened the big series on ice than on the day LeBron and the Heat went after a two to nothing lead. With out of town papers virtually ignoring the story, not a word in the New York Post, a quick blurb in USA Today, a little more in the Boston papers, which print just two hours south of Dineen’s previous coaching job, the story probably gets it’s biggest play right here in Hartford, where Dineen played for a suburban high school team before going on to play for another team downtown. I once asked Kevin’s mom about her favorite memory of Kevin during his playing days at Glastobury High, while his father was coaching that downtown team, and she recalled the time he forgot to fasten his suspenders and his pants came down as he vaulted the boards to take the ice. He went on to forge another hockey memory or two that local fans may remember better. The announcement that the Florida Panthers have a new head coach should have recieved more attention than the shadow of LeBron allowed. A franchise that came into existence 18 years ago, won more than half it’s games just once and finished last in their division this year, after closing off two thousand of their seventeen thousand seats to make small crowds look bigger, should make big news when it finds a proven winner to guide it’s fortunes, and if there’s one thing Kevin Dineen is, it’s a proven winner. Accepting his new job under a virtual news blackout suits him just fine. He always functioned best when operating under the radar. Just ask Larry Robinson about that guy who snuck up on him to score the biggest goal in Whalers history, the guy who spent many of his best seasons in the shadow of Ron Francis. A year ago this month, as Howard Baldwin announced plans for Winter Fest at Rentschler Field, Dineen stood in the background and assessed his chances of being named to one of two coaching vacancies in the NHL. He didn’t think they were good, though he thought both interviews went well. While he toiled through six seasons of success in the American Hockey League, where he lost just 155 of 480 games, former teammates Joel Quenneville, Dave Tippet and Francis were showing their coaching chops in the big show. Whenever Dineen sneaks out of the shadows he fills up the spotlight. He’s a hockey guy from a hockey world, head up with the best basketball player on earth in a basketball town. Don’t put this one in LeBron’s column just yet. These are the kind of odds that have always brought out the best in “Son of ‘Foxy'”. If he fastens his suspenders and keeps his pants up he’s likely to have LeBron buying Panthers season tickets. I’d never bet against him. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

Read the news story on Kevin Dineen’s selection.

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