Hinote joined the Columbus Blue Jackets coaching staff Thursday.
Amidst the July 1st free agent signings was one that was of particular interest to me. That’s because it involves my friend and former Avalanche player Dan Hinote. Well, he isn’t really a friend. I mean, we don’t keep in touch or anything, but Dan has a way of making everyone he meets feel like his friend.
I met Dan a little more than three years ago. We were both rehabbing at the same physical therapy practice: He after yet another shoulder surgery and me after surgery for a tri-malleor fracture of my ankle. By then, he was a member of the St. Louis Blues, but living in Denver in the off-season, he chose to rehab close to home.
Honestly, I hadn’t been all that star-struck. After all, one of Denver’s “Most Eligible Bachelors” (as voted by a local magazine) wasn’t what I considered a dreamboat, nor was he someone that did much for me on the ice. Yet after spending many hours working out, rehabbing and chatting with him, I realized what all the fuss was about.
Dan is one of the most genuine guys I have ever met. He takes great interest in everyone he meets. He never forgets anyone’s name. He asked me a lot of questions about speed skating, about my competitions, my injuries. We had a common friend on the Avalanche, and he had nothing but glowing things to say about him. Every time I saw him, he’d come sit on the treatment table next to me and ask me how I was doing. Elderly women would come in and Dan would remember all of their names and give them a big hug.
He was humble, and talked about how lucky he was to have broken in when he did — when it was still a trapping, clutch-and-grab league because he was just scrappy, and guys like him were no longer being drafted or given a shot in the NHL.
He was in love. We got to hear all about Amy, his then-girlfriend (now wife). He talked about taking her to the Sushi Den for her birthday. He told us all about his trip to Las Vegas with the guys where he would relax and decide if he really was going to pop the big question. When he got engaged, we all knew the next day.
It wasn’t hard to see why he was so well loved in Denver. He was very social, being seen out and about the city, having a great time with whoever was willing. Back then, you might see him hanging out at the famous country bar Stampede with Peter Forsberg, partying downtown or dining with John-Michael Liles in the ritzy Cherry Creek area where he lived. He became a media darling, a fan favorite, and women and men alike just fell in love with him.
Then in 2006, he signed with St. Louis, but no one felt ill feelings towards him. You just couldn’t. He was cheered when he returned with his new team to play the Avs. People still followed his social life and his lavish wedding back in Colorado was an item of great interest. And, of course, we all cheered when he reunited with Peter Forsberg this year to play for Modo of Sweden’s Elitserien.
Today, we again applauded Dan when we heard he would become an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets. I can’t think of a better guy for the team. He’s smart. Very smart. After all, very few get accepted to West Point. More importantly however, is his personality.
Much like Ted Nolan, Dan cares about people. With a young, budding team like the Blue Jackets, he will be the perfect man to nurture these kids, to instill confidence in them and to give them advice. He will be a shoulder to cry on, a confidante and a great role model. He will quickly learn what makes each player tick and will know how to get the most out of them. For now, he’s only an assistant, but I predict he is going to have more of an impact on this team than anyone is expecting.
Just ask anyone in Colorado. Because we all know him well.
He’s our friend.
Photo: Dan Hinote by Goddess Sasha. Copyright 2008-2010. All Rights Reserved.