Pro-file: Dan Hinote

Colorado Avalanche forward Dan Hinote is one of "those" guys. If he's on your side, you absolutely love him. If he's on the other team, he's constantly reminding you that he's not on your side.

According to the National Hockey League, the 25-year-old Hinote hails from Leesburg, Fla. But he was raised in Elk River, Minn., just north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Overlooked by most Division I hockey programs, he ended up at West Point, playing for Army in 1995-96. He scored 21 goals and added 25 assists as a freshman. Hinote was selected by Colorado in the seventh round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft and, shortly thereafter, chose to leave Army for the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals.

It's an unbelievable feeling in front of your family and your friends and your teachers and all the people that have supported you through the years.
– Dan Hinote

Hinote spent a year and a half with Oshawa before joining the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears. The 6-foot, 193-pounder made his NHL debut during the 1999-2000 campaign. His first full season with Colorado was in 2000-01, when the Avalanche captured its second Stanley Cup.

Hinote, who has three goals and an assist in 15 games this season, sat down with Inside College Hockey’s Mike Eidelbes in St. Paul following Colorado's game against the Minnesota Wild the day after Thanksgiving.

Inside College Hockey: Welcome home. Is there a better way for you to spend the Thanksgiving holiday?

Dan Hinote : It's one of those special things that you don't get a chance to do too much. When I was growing up and we got rid of the North Stars, I was worried that I'd never get a chance to come back and play in Minnesota. But now that they've got the Wild, it's an unbelievable feeling to come back and play in front of your family and your friends and your teachers and all the people that have supported you through the years. I get a bunch of tickets and pay them back for all their support.

INCH: Do you have fond memories of the North Stars?

DH: Growing up, we didn't have a lot of money, so we mostly watched them on TV. It was a great rivalry with the Blackhawks. If we had tickets or we could get them, those were the special games that we would get to go to. They were one of those teams -- they didn't do anything wrong, they had support from the fans. It was great.

INCH: Do you think you're the only NHLer in history to get his first pair of skates out of a dumpster?

DH: I would imagine. But weirder things have happened. Courtesy of my babysitter, who is actually here tonight and I see all the time. Thank god my neighbor was a garbage man.

INCH: How did you end up at West Point?

DH: I wanted to go into the FBI after high school, but I wanted to make sure my parents didn't have to pay for college. It was kind of an in-between thing. I figured if I could get a full ride at West Point, which everybody does, then my parents wouldn't have to pay and I could play college hockey for four years. There were great coaches there with the Rileys and then I'd go into the FBI after a couple years in the military. The right people saw the right things and I got lucky.

INCH: How hard was it to leave West Point after just one season?

DH: It was tough. It was one of those experiences that you'd never trade, but it was a very tough year. Your first year, you go through all the hazing. But I think it lets you know who you are, what you can take, what you can't, and what you're able to persevere through. It was one of those opportunities where I got to play as a freshman, where at a lot of colleges maybe I wouldn't have and then maybe I wouldn't have maybe got the shot that I got.

INCH: You scored Elk River's first-ever state tournament goal back in 1993. Do people outside Minnesota realize how big a deal that is?

DH: If you haven't been a part of Minnesota state high school hockey, then you'd never understand. High school hockey in Canada is not so big. They have it, but it's more juniors and midgets that they play. Even some other states, it's not at huge. Then you come to Minnesota and they play in the big arena and it's in all the papers. It's a huge thing, but trying to make (my teammates) understand, it's a whole different story.

INCH: Minnesotans are very proud of natives who advance to the college and pro ranks, but it seems like you're kind of the unknown Minnesotan.

DH: If you look on the (roster), it says I was born in Leesburg, Fla., which is the truth. But really I was raised in Minnesota. It's kind of unfortunate that they have to put Leesburg, Fla., as where I was born, but it's understandable. Realistically, I'm from Minnesota but a lot of people don't know it because in high school I was a decent player but my linemates were a lot better players than I was, so I was kind of a sleeper.

INCH: Who were the some of the notable players you skated with in high school?

DH: Woody Glines (Minnesota-Duluth), Reggie Simon (Alaska Anchorage), Richie Anderson (Minnesota-Duluth), Matt Bailey (St. Cloud State). All Division I players. I was kind of in the background, which is kind of how I like it anyway.

INCH: If you're a guy who likes to stay in the background, then how did you end up in your first job as a waiter?

DH: I was a waiter at Perkins. Dad said, "You're paying for your car, you're doing this and that's just how it is."

INCH: You've got a reputation in the Denver area as a heartthrob, but in a recent Internet poll conducted by a local television station, voters said former Av and current San Jose Shark Mike Ricci was better looking than you. Is that an insult?

DH: I'm not sure. I got whupped pretty bad in the poll, which is hard to take. But even to be considered in the poll -- he was a fan favorite when he was (in Colorado). My mom wasn't too happy with the outcome, but you can't please everybody.

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