All In The Family: Third-Generation Hockey Star Dineen Claims USHL Award

Forward reflects on seasons with Chicago Fury, Chicago Mission

By Ross Forman – Will Dineen has had a pressure-packed hockey career, every shift in every game of every season. Even before he gets on the ice.

His name says it all. Just consider:

  • His grandfather, Bill Dineen, played for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cups for the Wings. He then coached in the WHL, AHL and NHL, and, in 2010, was elected as an inaugural inductee into the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame.
  • His dad, Kevin Dineen, played close to 1,200 regular-season games in the NHL and he too went into coaching with time in the AHL and NHL, including 2014-2018 as a Blackhawks’ assistant.
  • His uncle Gord Dineen spent more than 500 games skating in the NHL before moving into coaching.
  • His uncle Peter Dineen was drafted in 1980 by the Philadelphia Flyers, then had a brief NHL playing career (13 games for the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings) before shifting into scouting and coaching.

The 20-year-old Will is “very thankful” for the pressure and enjoys it.

And he has thrived in the spotlight.

“There were some good players in my family, so that pushes me to be my best, motivates me to work my hardest every shift,” said Dineen, who is always meeting people, particularly at rinks, who know, played with, or against, a family member.

“I try to always be a good person, someone they all can be proud of.”

And that he is.

In fact, Dineen truly shined this past season as a forward and captain for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League (USHL) – and not just on the ice.

Dineen was named the recipient of the 2020–21 USHL Curt Hammer Award, presented annually since the 1988–89 season to a USHL player who distinguishes himself both on and off the ice throughout the course of the season by demonstrating outstanding performance, leadership, pride and determination.

Photos courtesy, Will Dineen

“Will exemplifies what it means to be a member of the Stampede,” said Stampede general manager and head coach Marty Murray said in a statement. “His work ethic, dependability and team-first mentality made him a great choice to serve as team captain this season and his impact on his teammates, the organization and community at large will hold a long-standing influence for some time to come.”

Dineen played all but three of the 54 regular-season games this past season, grabbing 25 points on 13 goals and 12 assists, with five multi-point games and five power-play goals.

“On behalf of the entire organization, we would like to congratulate Will on earning this special honor,” Stampede president Jim Olander said in a statement. “Despite the many challenges faced by the team throughout a difficult season, Will led by example both on and off the ice and actively volunteered his time to be a part of the community at large through an unprecedented time where fan interaction had limitations.”

Dineen participated in several digital fan relations and virtual and promotional messages to the fan base, including the Siouxland Libraries Get to Know You series, where he provided kids an inside look into what it takes to play for the team. He also took part in various charitable and corporate partnership appearances across the Sioux Empire, which included the annual Teddy Bear Toss collection and donation drop off.

“Whether it’s interacting with fans or helping in the community, Will was always there. He has a bright future in hockey and beyond with the way he approaches everything that comes his way. We wish him all the best as he continues his hockey career and studies,” Murray said.

Dineen compiled 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 81 career league starts between 2019 and 2021. He will play collegiate hockey and continue his academics at Yale University in the fall. Dineen is the third player in team history to win the exclusive Curt Hammer Award, which honors a dedicated volunteer and supporter of hockey in the Des Moines community before succumbing to cancer in 1987.

“It was a nice surprise, definitely was not expecting,” to win the award, he said. “It was nice to be thought of like that. It was a great honor; I’m flattered to be thought of for that.

“It’s cool to play in the USHL and to win a league award is very special.”

Dineen is driven to succeed and helps others around him do the same. He knew he had to set the example for the younger player, and did just that. “Come to the rink and work hard every day,” is his drive, he said.  And, “when asked to go out, do things in the community, I never hesitate. I thought that was a lot of fun.”

The Stampede often play in front of 5,000 fans, maybe 9,000. So, supporting the locals was a “no-brainer,” he said.

There was, of course, the team’s Teddy Bear Toss to support a local charity – and the players then deliver the teddy bears.

“That was cool, especially delivering the teddy bears,” he said.

Even though the Teddy Bear Toss this past season, well, ran into an obstacle:  the team didn’t score. The Stampede lost the game 2-0, so the toss was held during the first whistle after the 10-minute mark in the third period.

“Being shutout in that game was not my fondest memory,” he said. “Coach was not pleased.”

But, in his first season in Sioux Falls, Dineen assisted on the team’s first goal in the Teddy Bear Toss game

“It’s a pretty cool experience, seeing all of the teddy bears raining down onto the ice. That’s when you truly realize how fortunate you are to have such a good support from fan base,” Dineen said.

Dineen also participated in numerous virtual readings with locals.

“Sioux Falls treated me so well; everyone there was so, so nice, especially if you’re a Stampede player – they treat you like gold,” he said. “I had a great time in Sioux Falls.”

He starts at Yale in late-August. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to establish and build a good culture there, though it definitely will be a challenge,” he said.

Dineen moved to the Chicagoland area for his bantam seasons, playing for the Chicago Fury. He lived in Hinsdale and graduated from Hinsdale Central High School in 2019.

“I loved the Fury. We had a great, great time with a great coach, Jimmy Ryan,” Dineen said. “It was a great group of guys, friendships (formed on the Fury) are still (strong) today. I’m still close with many (former Fury teammates).”

One of Dineen’s best friends, Jacob Schleinz, also a Hinsdale Central graduate who skated for the Chicago Fury and Chicago Mission among other teams died this past April at Indiana University from injuries he received in a fall from a balcony.

Dineen cherishes their friendship.

“He was such a great friend and teammate. He was the life of our whole Fury team. I have nothing but good memories,” of Schleinz, Dineen said.

Schleinz learned to skate at age 3 and started playing for the Champaign Chiefs Hockey Club. He lived with host families in the Chicago area, including the Dineen’s.

“(Coach) Jimmy gave me a chance to play, he kind of the first person to take a chance on me, and I’ll never forget that. I don’t think I would be playing now where I am without my years and experience at the Fury. I loved my Fury years. Very fond memories,” Dineen said.

He skated for the Mission as a midget, which he tagged as “great times.”

“Will plays the game the right way, at both ends of the ice. Few play like that, but he definitely is one of them,” said Mission hockey director Gino Cavallini. “The (USHL) award shows the respect people have for him on and off the ice, which is not surprising.

Photo courtesy, Will Dineen

“I can still remember watching him the first time and saw that he played the game the same way his dad did. Will is just a hard player to play against.”

Dineen’s Mission career included time skating at The Odeum, which he said was a “good bonding experience.” He added, “That first year, we had players from many other teams, that was cool. There were no cliques. It was a great experience.”

Dineen’s Mission run included a 17-game winning streak, a state championship, a regional championship, and a shot at nationals.

“Looking back, the Mission was such a fun time and many of us are still close today,” he said.

Playing youth hockey in Illinois, he said, “was huge” for his development.

“Playing in Florida, you had to travel often (for games) to get good competition. But playing in Illinois was so good because you had all this elite competition right near you, within driving distance. That really helped get my game to the next level.

“Playing Tier 1 hockey in Illinois definitely helped me take my game to the next level.”

Slapshots With … Will Dineen

  • He has long spent summers in upstate New York. “It was pretty cool, spending the summers (with family), talking hockey,” he said.
  • Family Matters: “It’s been pretty cool to learn from all of them since each was a different (type of) player. My grandfather was a very special part of my life, with some great (old-time hockey) stories. I learned a lot from him, mostly, how to be a good person, treat people the right way. That probably was the biggest take away.”
  • If Not Hockey: “I was never pressured to be a hockey player. If I had said that I didn’t want to be a hockey player, I know that everyone in my family would have supported me all the way.
  • But, growing up the way I did, surrounded by hockey, ugh, there was almost no chance I would have done something else. I love hockey so much and I love talking hockey with (my family).”

<span style="color:#003875" class="has-inline-color"><strong>ROSS FORMAN</strong></span>

Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center.

Categories: Alumni in the News, featured, Hockey Headlines, Junior Hockey

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