Canadian women's coach Kevin Dineen discusses 2014 Olympics
When Canadian women’s hockey team head coach Dan Church resigned on December 12, it greatly altered the landscape of the 2014 women’s Olympic hockey tournament.
The reason Church’s resignation was so impactful was because it was the first time the three-time defending Olympic champion Canadian women’s hockey team showed any sign of inner-turmoil or weakness in years.
The Canadian women’s team continued to show weakness in December, eventually dropping the final four games of its exhibition series against the U.S. women, long its bitter rival and biggest threat at the Olympics. Prior to its four-game losing streak to end its exhibition schedule, the Canadian women had beaten the U.S. in three straight meetings.
In the midst of it all, Hockey Canada chose to replace Church with Kevin Dineen, a 50-year-old, former 19-year NHL player. Dineen became the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team’s head coach on December 17 just 39 days after being fired as the head coach of the NHL’s Florida Panthers on November 8.
Embedded video_content_type: U.S. and Canadian women throw down
NBCOlympics.com recently caught up with Dineen to discuss his new role with Hockey Canada, and his outlook on the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
NBCOlympics.com: To start at the beginning, you started this season coaching in the NHL. Going from coaching men in the National Hockey League to the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team seems like a radical change. How were you approached to coach the Canadian women’s team?
Dineen: When I called [President and CEO of Hockey Canada] Bob Nicholson and asked about [coaching] the [men’s] world championship [in May], he told me no decision would be made until after Sochi.
But three days later, after Dan Church resigned, he called me to talk about a unique opportunity. We met in Toronto for an interview two days later.
NBCOlympics: Obviously, when you start the season coaching in the NHL, you aren’t expecting to be coaching a women’s Olympic hockey team. In fact, coaching in the NHL, you probably don’t even watch that much women’s hockey. When you were hired, how much did you know about your new players?
Dineen: I really didn't know very much; there was a very big learning curve, especially the first three days.
From something as simple as recognizing faces to learning the players' games, it was tough. But the staff has been very good to me, and helpful every step of the way.
NBCOlympics.com: Are there any major differences between coaching women and men?
Dineen: Coaching in the National Hockey League opened my eyes to new things in the game, new nuances, new offensive systems, and those can be translated to the women's game.
The players I work with now are so cerebral, they think the game so well, and their passion and intensity rivals the men I've worked with in the past.
NBCOlympics.com: Are there any differences from a strategy standpoint?
Dineen: The time frame here is so condensed, and these players are so well-prepared; we really only want to tweak a few areas in all three zones. There's already a great foundation here to have success.
NBCOlympics.com: Since you were hired, your team has not done well in the win/loss column against the American women. Your team will go to Sochi having lost four straight games to the U.S., overall. What will have to change for you to beat them in Sochi?
Dineen: The U.S. is a very worthy opponent, and they, along with a number of other countries, have talented players with a lot of speed. We just need to compete hard every game, and we can be successful.
Embedded video_content_type: SportsDash: Chu, U.S. not afraid to drop gloves
NBCOlympics.com: You come from a storied hockey family. Your father played for the Red Wings in the days of Gordie Howe, and was a professional coach and general manager for decades. Your brothers, Gord and Pete, both played in the NHL; your brothers, Shawn and Gerry, both played in the minor leagues. Your brothers have also stayed in the game after retiring. How does growing up in a family of such hockey lifers influence how you think about the game
Dineen: I was so fortunate, growing up to be surrounded by professional hockey players. My dad was a general manager and coach who always had players of great characters on his team, and between him, his players and my brothers, there was no shortage of role models.
NBCOlympics.com: For all your family members’ involvement in hockey, you are the only one now on the women’s side of the game.Obviously, you're 100 percent focused on the Olympics right now. But what are your plans after Sochi? Are you going to remain the women's head coach? Are you looking to get back to the NHL? Or are you just going to coach the Olympics and see what happens afterwards?
Dineen: I’ve made a commitment to these players, and to Hockey Canada, and this is an incredible adventure to be a part of.
I've learned something new every day being a part of the Hockey Canada family, and like our players, I want to be better every day.
I'll sit down with my wife and kids after Sochi and we will make a decision concerning the future.
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