Kevin Dineen, Panthers enjoy tradition of rookie dinners

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Having rookies cover the cost of a team dinner may be costly, but former NHL player and Florida Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen says the act has evolved into a “great” tradition.

“I think it’s gotten to the point with the maturity of leadership in the NHL that instead of turning this into a ‘We’re going to get these guys,’ it has turned into, ‘Let’s turn this into a really nice evening.’ “

Over the weekend, the Miami Herald reported veteran members of the Miami Dolphins have been using younger players to finance meals and excursions. One example noted Dolphins rookies being on the hook for a $30,000 player dinner. First-year cornerback Will Davis said via Twitter the bill was split by multiple rookies.

Dineen noted there were different traditions when he broke into the league with the Hartford Whalers in 1984. He recalled having to dress up in a manner similar to what many Major League Baseball rookies endure today. But during Dineen’s 21-year career, the rookie dinner became commonplace.

“Traditions have changed over the years since I was a rookie,” Dineen said. “There were things (then) that probably are not acceptable these days. That’s just the evolution of sports in general. It can be looked at a lot of different ways.”

Florida held a rookie dinner at the end of last season, with Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore, T.J. Brennan and Jacob Markstrom picking up the tab at the oceanfront SLS Hotel in South Beach.

“It was different because it was at the end of the year,” Huberdeau said. “It was kind of the end-of-the-year party and the rookie dinner at the same time. It was cool. It brings all the guys together.”

Huberdeau did not recall an exact figure for the event, but said depending on the team and location, a rookie dinner runs in the ballpark of $5,000 to $8,000 per rookie.

“I don’t care,” Huberdeau said of the cost. “It’s a good time. Sure, it’s a little money, but you get it back every year you go for dinner.”

Huberdeau’s only regret is that the Panthers were not able to hold the meal during the season, which is usually the tradition. A compressed game schedule due to the NHL lockout limited time for off-day events.

“It’s better to do it during the season,” Huberdeau said. “It brings all the guys together and builds chemistry.”

Follow Erin Brown on Twitter @rinkside.