CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen still considers himself a product of the American Hockey League. And being a Dineen, that also means he has a certain affinity for Glens Falls.
So when the word came out last week that the city would have an AHL team for at least one more season, Dineen was thrilled.
“Hockey was a big part of that community for a long time,” Dineen said Thursday. “It’s great to see that they’ll still be there.”
Dineen is the son of former Adirondack Red Wings coach Bill Dineen, and was back at the family’s home in Queensbury for two weeks around Christmas. Over that time — and with the Panthers’ schedule cleared by the NHL lockout — Kevin Dineen said he went to two games at the Civic Center, which sparked a certain feeling of nostalgia.
“It was nice to get back,” he said. “The building still has a great buzz. It’s got a great feel to it. It’s one of those good towns.”
Dineen is about to get back to his real job, with NHL training camps expected to open by Monday now that the lockout is winding down. The last hurdle is the players formally ratifying the newly struck labor deal by electronic voting to be conducted Friday and Saturday.
Dineen watched more than a dozen Panthers skate informally Thursday, and said he’s eager for the challenge of leading Florida’s defense of the Southeast Division title. The Panthers were ousted in the first round of last season’s playoffs by New Jersey, falling at home in a double-overtime Game 7 thriller.
“I think that experience has stuck with our team and still motivates us,” Dineen said.
NHL teams will play a condensed 48-game schedule, meaning off days will be few and far between.
That being said, Dineen will still likely take a peek every now and then at how Adirondack is faring in the standings.
“I know a lot of people who are season-ticket holders or advertisers or supporters,” Dineen said. “It’s got a great history in Glens Falls. You know how I rate a town like that? Pete Mahovlich lives there. Glenn Merkosky, Greg Joly, so many players that played there have settled there after and I think that says something for a town, that those guys have settled there and been a part of it.”