It would be a lie to say that Kevin Dineen had this all planned as he sat there at Zetra Ice Stadium awaiting his next shift at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.
Playing alongside Canadians who later would have hockey ties to Hartford — Dave Tippett, Carey Wilson, J.J. Daigneault, James Patrick, Mario Gosselin — Dineen couldn't have known that he'd be coaching the Canada women's team in the 2014 Olympics.
After all, the women didn't compete in Olympic ice hockey until 1998 in Nagano, Japan.
So let's forget 1984 and Canada's fourth-place finish for a few minutes, a finish that has left Dineen hungry for something much shinier next month in Russia.
Dineen had no idea that he would be headed to Sochi even at the beginning of this NHL season. That was before a 3-9-4 start. That was before the Florida Panthers fired him on Nov. 8. Heralded for leading Florida to a first-place division finish in his rookie coaching season, Dineen was out of a job 18 months later.
"I was sad, mad, the range of emotions that you go through in that situation, which I think is just human nature," Dineen said earlier this week. "I spent a little time fishing in the Keys out on the flats. I don't think it's my makeup to take too much time off."
Dineen reached out to Bob Nicholson, president and CEO of Hockey Canada. He asked about the men's world championships in May.
"Bob said those decisions weren't going to be until after the Olympics, closer to the NHL playoffs," Dineen said. "He said he'd keep me in mind. That was on a Monday or Tuesday."
That Friday, Dec. 13, Nicholson called Dineen back.
"He asked me if I was sitting down," Dineen said. "He wanted to know if I would be interested in the women's Olympic job. I said, 'Absolutely.'"
Dineen told Nicholson he wanted to check with a few people first and he'd get back. Among those he called were two former Whalers teammates coaching in the NHL.
"[Tippett] played in a couple of Olympics [1984 and 1992], coached in world championships, so I banged some things off him," Dineen said. "I talked to Joel [Quenneville]. I talked to Mike Babcock [Canada men's coach] and Steve Bartlett [his long-time agent] as well as my wife and my daughter Hannah. They were all so thrilled. Everybody's reaction was what my initial reaction was: It's a fabulous experience."
Dan Church abruptly resigned as coach on Dec. 12. He said he didn't feel that others showed confidence in his ability to land Canada's fourth successive Olympic gold. He said he was heartbroken. He did not say exactly who lacked confidence in him.
At first blush, given that Dineen had never coached women at the international level, he might have seemed like an unusual choice. That's only for those who don't know his family roots.
If a hockey tree could be planted on the U.S.-Canada border, at International Falls, Minn., or up there along I-87 or I-89 around Lake Champlain … that tree would be named Dineen.
Dineen's dad, Bill, played everywhere, coached everywhere. He played on Stanley Cup champions with Gordie Howe in Detroit as a player. He coached Gordie in the WHA. He even coached Kevin with the Flyers. Nobody packs up the kids and hockey equipment and gets on the road like the Dineens. They are hockey's vagabonds, the game's traveling minstrels.
So the least shocking thing in the world is that Kevin Dineen, born in Quebec City 50 years ago when Billy played for the AHL Aces, is a dual citizen. Of course, he is.
Where was Kevin Dineen, who spent six years as Portland Pirates coach, after the AHL playoffs? Where else? He was coaching his two daughters on youth travel teams.
"Every spring, every summer, we'd be up at UVM, in Cromwell, in Marlboro, Mass.," Dineen said. "I spent a lot of time running around New England in tournaments. I got to work with a lot of girls [on a select Maine team] who ended up going to Westminster, Choate; Hannah went to Phillips Exeter. Some are on college teams. I really enjoyed it."
Hannah plays at Colby.