Dineen, nicknamed Willie and Foxy, was born in Arvida, Quebec. His father, Matt, was a star defenseman with the University of McGill who later tried out for, but never played with, the Montreal Maroons. He became a civil engineer instead.
Bill played his youth and junior hockey in Ontario, starring with the Ottawa St. Pats and the St. Michael's (Toronto) Majors. Education was important to Bill's father, hence his playing at the legendary St. Mikes. The University of Michigan also offered a scholarship and a chance to play, but Bill wanted pursue his NHL dreams.
In 1953 Dineen jumped directly from junior to the NHL - no easy task in those days of the Original Six. Many star players had to apprentice in the minor leagues before making the jump. Dineen was no star, but he established himself as a useful NHL player with the powerful Detroit Red Wings. He helped Howe and the Wings win Stanley Cups in 1953 and 1954.
Dineen's rookie season was something special. He finished as a runner up for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year to Camille Henry of the New York Rangers. But Dineen finished ahead of the much hyped Jean Beliveau in rookie of the year voting. Dineen scored 17 goals, and possibly could have hit the impressive 20 goal level. However the Wings, under orders from boss Jack Adams, benched Dineen late in the season. Had Dineen reached 20 goals the Wings would have had to pay him a $6,000 bonus. The cheap Wings had no intention of allowing that to happen.
Perhaps his confidence was shaken by the undeserved benching, because he was never quite the same player again. He played 23 playoff games over the next two seasons but only picked up one assist. His offensive numbers over the next 4 seasons steadily declined, even though the Wings dynasty had begun to fall apart and were looking for bigger contributions from newcomers.
On December 17th, 1957 Dineen was traded to Chicago by Detroit with Billy Dea, Lorne Ferguson and Earl Reibel for Nick Mickoski, Bob Bailey, Hec Lalande and Jack McIntyre. It was a huge shuffle but Dineen couldn't find his game in Chicago either. After that season he was down in the minor leagues.
Dineen continued to play hockey, toiling in the minor leagues while riding the buses and scraping by with puny pay checks. Dineen stilled loved hockey, but you have to wonder if he ever wished he followed his father's desire for education and have a steady job. Dineen had a growing family - 6 boys and 1 girl - and quite simply had to keep playing hockey for the pay check to help keep his family afloat.
Dineen eventually retired in 1971, 13 years after his last stint in the NHL. He then turned to a long life of coaching, mostly in the minor leagues.
In 1972 Dineen got a big break. He was asked to coach the new WHA team the Houston Aeros. He knew he wanted an 18 year old youngster named Mark Howe. Mark of course was the son of Dineen's old teammate Gordie Howe. Dineen immediately set about acquiring the WHA rights to Mark and Gordie's other hockey playing son, Marty. Then he approached Gordie with the idea of coming out of retirement to play with his sons. Houston badly needed some sort of draw if hockey was to succeed in the Texan city. Gordie agreed to return to the ice, and counts playing with his sons as his career highlight.
The legend of the Howe family is well known. But Dineen's own family is quite the story. Three of his sons played in the NHL - Peter, Gord and most noticeably Kevin, who was a NHL standout for years.
Interestingly Bill Dineen, too, returned to the NHL in the 1991-92 season, as he was surprisingly named as Paul Holmgren's replacement as Philadelphia's head coach. He would coach the Flyers for the remainder of the season and the entire season following that before being fired himself.
Dineen's hiring was a surprise in that he was essentially a career minor leaguer, both as a player and as a coach. But no one was more surprised than Kevin Dineen, then playing for the Flyers, that his dad would now be his NHL coach!