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Adirondack Red Wings coach/AHL HOF’er Bill Dineen shares the story of bringing the Howes to the WHA

Bill Dineen will join the AHL's Hall of Fame next year, and he's being inducted largely on the basis of his contributions to the AHL as the coach of the Red Wings' AHL affiliate in Glens Falls, NY, but Dineen did much more than coach the Adirondack Red Wings to a pair of Calder Cups. He also won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, and he just happened to coach Mark, Marty and Gordie Howe as the coach of the WHA's Houston Aeros in the 70's.

Dineen shared his recollection of bringing the Howes to Houston with the Utica Observer-Dispatch's Don Laible...

As the WHA was preparing for its drafts ( the league conducted two drafts - amatuer and professional ), 'Foxy' Dineen, who gained his nickname, according to him,  due to during his Red Wings days of  finding ways around the on-ice opposition and not being caught after curfews, had his sight set on drafting Mark Howe.  Mark and his brother Marty Howe were playing for the Toronto Marlboros of  the Ontario Hockey Association.  Mark,17, and Marty,18, at the time were to young to play in the NHL.  But, then came the WHA draft day, a Friday - two days before the Memorial Cup Final.

As Dineen looked at his draft situation, Mark Howe could and would be taken in the WHA's professional draft.  As he remembers the situation, by NCAA standards, since players in the OHA were being paid ( small living stipends ) they wouldn't be available for the amateur draft.  Dineen stood up when it came time for the Aeros to make their first draft selection and announced Mark Howe's name.  " Everyone said to us that we can't do this", says Dineen.  However, prior to the selection, Dineen conferred with WHA Commissioner Gary Davidson.  At the same time, Dineen  and the Houston staff were lobbying other team owners, with the thought of 45-year old Gordie Howe would come to Houston to play. 

 " I told the owners, they were getting 3,000 to 4,000 fans at their games.  With Gordie Howe coming to play their teams, their 13,000 seat arenas would fill up ", Dineen tells.

Getting Mark, Marty, and Gordie Howe to initially sign four-year deals with the Aeros , Dineen and Aeros ownership created a trend.  In the following seasons, other WHA clubs were bidding against NHL teams who had drafted the same players, and in many cases winning due to offering higher salaries.  Signing John Tonelli for the 1976-'77 season, also from the Marlboros, is another feather in Dineen's coaching hat.  John would later go on to be part of a New York Islanders dynasty that would win four straight Stanley Cup championships.

Laible continues, and he notes that the 81-year-old is most proud of his five sons, who all work for NHL teams in some coaching or scouting capacity:

Today Bill's second-youngest son Jerry Dineen is the New York Rangers video coach, Kevin Dineen is the coach of  the Florida Panthers, Gordie Dineen is an assistant coach with the Toronto Marlies, Peter Dineen is a scout for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Shawn Dineen is a scout with the Nashville Predators. " They tell me they have the greatest jobs in the world.  They are enjoying what they are doing, and they've been at it a long time", Dineen admits.

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.