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Dineen hangs up skates to take AHL coaching job

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Gord Dineen had been in Utah so long he'd forgotten that professional hockey can be a transient job.

The 37-year-old had spent six seasons with the Grizzlies, including five as the team's captain.

"I had my heart set on finishing my career in Utah," he said last week from his New York home.

So last March, when he received word that he'd been traded, he had the same reaction as many fans: disbelief.

"Not that I thought I was untouchable," Dineen said. "I just felt comfortable, and that's usually when things like that happen."

He said the news was tough to take, even though the professional side of him knew that's the way the business worked. He'd been traded to Chicago for the rights to a younger defenseman whom Utah felt was invaluable to its defense.

"Above all else that's his job," Dineen said. "We talked eventually that day. (Coach) Bob (Bourne) was in Salt Lake, and we were traveling. I'm sure on both sides it was tough. You just turn your mind off, as a professional, and go do it."

He said he's returned to Salt Lake City since and maintains good relationships with those in the organization.

"That's the good thing about hockey," he said. "You always seem to maintain those friendships. I probably gained some new friends."

Dineen recently announced he was retiring from playing and would take the assistant coach's job in Louisville. The American Hockey League Panthers are affiliated with the NHL's Florida Panthers. He said he was training to play but looking to coach.

"It came about really quickly," he said. "I was kind of undecided at the end of the season. . . . I interviewed a couple of weeks ago; it was a courtesy thing."

Louisville head coach Joe Patterson offered the job to someone else, but that didn't work out. So Dineen received a call he didn't expect — again.

"He offered it to me, and I spent a tough day of deciding," Dineen said, noting it was hard for him to conceive of a hockey season as anything but a player.

"That's always the hardest thing (to give up) — the camaraderie of being a player and a part of a team. It was really a tough decision."

Dineen will help with rookie camp Sept. 1. Then he will go to Louisville for the first time.

"It seems like I've been to so many cities in all my hockey travels, but I've never been there," he said. "I'm excited."

Dineen has never talked publicly about the Grizzlies' decision to trade him on the IHL deadline right before playoffs. He said he's now glad things worked out the way they did, and he actually ended up winning the Turner Cup, his third time, with Chicago.

"It ended up being a great place to play," he said. "But it was very hard to accept at first."

A professional player since 1982, Dineen said he knew many of those in the Chicago organization, and it was "probably the only place I would have reported."

"I have no hard feelings," he said. "They felt like they had to make a move to have a chance to do something in the playoffs. I understand that."

He also knows that now he may find himself on the opposite side of that problem in the future.

"It will definitely be the toughest part of that job, making those kinds of decisions," he said. "I'm really looking forward to working in the American League. It's a younger, more developmental league, and there's a lot more teaching involved."

Coaching isn't something he consciously thought about until the last 10 years, but he said he knew he'd always do something related to hockey.

Maybe it's in his blood. His father and grandfather both played professional hockey, and his father coached for many years in the NHL, WHA and AHL.

"My dad was always playing, coaching, scouting or working as a general manager," he said. "Hockey has always been a part of my life. So I can't really see doing much else."


E-MAIL: adonaldson@desnews.com