Cam Dineen had plenty of options to sift through while deciding where to play hockey in the immediate future.
Dineen is a product of the New Jersey Rockets hockey club, one of the oldest and most revered programs in the state, and could have remained home on the organization’s 19U blue line, after winning the Eastern Hockey League (EHL) Rooking of the Year Award in 2015 following a 41-point (11g, 30a) effort in 39 games, a total that led all EHL defensemen.
The 17-year old Toms River resident was also a coveted asset of the Tri-City Storm, a top tier junior program in Kearney, Nebraska who selected Dineen third overall in the 2014 United States Hockey League Draft, and had him suit up for three games last season.
If the junior hockey route wasn’t partial to his liking, the NCAA level was also an alternative, as the defenseman received a scholarship offer from Division I Yale University, a program he would have been able to join for the 2016-17 school year.
However, unlike such New Jersey hockey luminaries as Jim Dowd (Lake Superior State University), James and Trevor van Riemsdyk (University of New Hampshire), Johnny Goudreau (Boston College), or Connor and Tim Clifton (Quinnipiac University) who all opted for collegiate competition, Dineen will traverse a new path to the next level of highly competitive ice hockey, announcing his commitment to the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
“The option was there for me, and my family and I thought it would be good for me to look into it,” Dineen said. “When I went out there for the team’s camp it became clear that this was where I needed to be if I wanted to get to the next level.”
Dineen, a member of the Orr Hockey Group, which has worked with such NHL standouts as Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, and Patrick Sharp, as well future stars like Connor McDavid, is a proponent of The OHL, and certainly factored into this local skater’s choice.
However, what solidified his decision was the time spent in North Bay, Ontario.
“I really loved the town,” Dineen said. “It’s considered a city, but it has a small town feel. I was very comfortable there, and it’s a place I could see myself living for a while.”
“To say the people there are big on hockey doesn’t really do it. The players there are supported by the fans and the town like they’re super stars. The rink and locker room are professional level facilities. The entire atmosphere was great to be part of, and it’s like nothing I’ve experienced before.”
The OHL is one of three major junior hockey leagues in Canada with such notable alumni as Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros, and current New York Islanders star John Tavares…to name a few.
Dineen’s Battalion club has also had its share of distinguished pros, as NHL all-stars Brent Burns (Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks) and Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche) have each worn the North Bay sweater in the past.
The Toms River-native knows it’s a lot to live up to, but as one of the top U.S. born defense prospects for his 1998 birth year, Dineen also understands the preparation it will take to have an immediate impact at the OHL level.
“The coaching staff with North Bay is the best of the best and I know what I need to do this summer to prepare myself for them,” said Dineen, who is NHL Draft eligible in 2016. “It’s a big step, and I’ll need to focus on getting bigger, stronger, and faster so I can fit right in when I get there.”
“But I’m also going to North Bay with a chip on my shoulder because as a U.S. skater from the East Coast I know I’ll be tested, and I know I’ll have to be ready to prove myself every day. This is a special opportunity that I’m thankful to have, and I’m focused on giving them good minutes.”