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Utica Comets’ Dineen, Florida Panthers’ Maurice share hockey connection

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
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Posted 5/4/23

Hockey is usually considered a small world similar to other sports.

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Utica Comets’ Dineen, Florida Panthers’ Maurice share hockey connection


Hockey is usually considered a small world similar to other sports.

When you’ve been part of the sport as long as Utica Comets coach Kevin Dineen — more than 40 years counting his playing career in college and professional as well as his extensive coaching experience — there are more than a few links with players, coaches and team personnel.

The postseason can draw out the connections a little bit more as teams make their marks.

One notable connection: Dineen, played for Paul Maurice with the Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes in the late 1990s. Maurice was 29 years old when he started in the role while Dineen was 32.

Maurice, now guiding the NHL’s Florida Panthers, helped create a stir in the hockey world Sunday with a monster playoff upset of the record-setting Boston Bruins.

The 59-year-old Dineen keeps up the goings-on around the hockey world. So, he was definitely aware of the Panthers — an organization he coached from 2011-13 — and Maurice stunning the Bruins, which had the best regular-season record.

“I think Mo (Maurice) is a guy that has a lot of games. I caught him very early in his career ... “ Dineen said this week. “He’s really a passionate guy. He’s pretty thoughtful, too. I think he’s a good quote because he really does think the game that is very relatable to the public in general. When you see a team play as hard as they did in that playoff series and understand that there was a momentum shift going on and they grabbed that thing by the throat and kept on running with it, I think that’s a really good reflection of the coaching staff and the job Paul Maurice has done.”

The argument can be made that Dineen also explains the game in a relatable way as well, especially over his two seasons guiding the Comets. Utica is in the middle of a best-of-five series against Toronto and trying to advance to another round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs.

For his part, Maurice previously noted Dineen’s deep impact during their time together with the Whalers.

“He was the first guy who had an NHL work ethic,” said Maurice of Dineen during a 2015 interview when Maurice’s Winnipeg Jets were playing Chicago with Dineen as an assistant coach. “So I’m brand new, I didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I kept thinking early on in Hartford was, ‘My junior team worked way harder than these guys did.’ And Kevin came in and he practiced like what I thought an NHL guy would practice like.”

The hardworking mindset is a trait that Dineen has tried to make a calling card for the Comets.

“Kevin left that impression (for the Hartford/Carolina organization), that’s what one of those guys is really like, one of those high-end workers, high-end character, captain guys.,” Maurice said in 2015.

Comets add two

The Comets added defenseman Jarrod Gourley and goaltender Mike Robinson to the roster from ECHL Adirondack on Wednesday.

Adirondack’s season ended recently, allowing for the moves to happen.

Gourley is signed to an AHL contract this season and has spent time with the Comets. Meanwhile, Robinson is signed to a professional tryout contract (PTO) and made his AHL debut in late March with the team.

The players were added as extra players for the postseason, according to Comets General Manager Dan MacKinnon. It is a standard move for hockey teams in the postseason that allows for more practice team as well being considered an option, if needed.

The moves mean Utica has a total of 33 players on the roster. There are caveats, though, as a few players are not available for injured-related reasons entering Wednesday.


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