Puckstoppers - Founders Bio
Who is the Founder?
The beginnings of Chris' story has very little to do with hockey, although his life is very much about hockey now. The life experiences Chris shares, are much like a hockey game, sometimes you have to grin and bear it and sometimes you have to fight to do what you know is right. Chris' hope is that you find it at least, interesting, and hopefully you will be able to take some small part of the story and make your own life a little bit better.
Chris has never shared his life story with anyone except his immediate family. His decision to keep his personal history a secret is because of a desire to be known for his accomplishments in life and for making it on his own and not because of the hardships he has overcome. He has made the decision to tell his story here in the hope that others will see that life is simply what you make of it and the obstacles only matter if you let them. He considers everything that has happened to him to be lucky. There are many folks that would look upon his life and see it as unlucky, or say "why me" This is something that has never occurred to him.
He was born in the Northern Ontario community of North Bay and spent much of his first 12 years of life in and out of hospitals. Unfortunately he was born with a genetic defect in his heart that required major open-heart surgery when he was only 2 ½ years of age. Chris was always feisty and became known as 'the Holy Terror' at the world renowned 'Hospital for Sick Children' in Toronto, Ontario, where all of his early surgeries were preformed by some of the best heart surgeons in the world at the time.
When the heart was repaired the doctors accidentally hit a part of the heart that caused some major damage. Dealing with the very small heart of a 2 year old baby in 1964 was very delicate work and the accident was unavoidable. The damage did not manifest itself until Chris was 7 years old and riding his bike. He had a cardiac arrest (stoppage of the heart) while riding down the street to visit a friend. He lay in the driveway of his friend, without a heartbeat. The friend's father happened to lookout the front window and saw him lying in his driveway. By the grace of God, he was a fireman and fully trained to administer CPR.
After Chris was revived, he was transported by ambulance to Toronto. The 4-hour ambulance ride saw many more cardiac arrests and the paramedics and nurse that were assisting during the ride feared the worst. At the very least it was assumed that he would be brain damaged from the continued heart stoppages. It was estimated that Chris' had an amazing 100 plus, cardiac arrests during the trip.
When they arrived in Toronto there was a team of 40 doctors and nurses, ready to administer whatever aid they could. It was determined that a permanent pacemaker was required. Pacemakers were very seldom put into children in the sixties and doctors were unsure how Chris' life would be affected by it, but an optimistic outlook was that he would at least make it to be a teenager. After a month or more in hospital and hundreds of tests, it was decided that absolutely no damage had resulted from the cardiac arrests and Chris was allowed to return to North Bay and resume his 'normal' childhood.
Over the next 4 years there were many hospital trips and emergency pacemaker changes as Chris broke both pacemakers and the leads that attached to his heart and allowed the current to deliver the charges to his heart and keep it beating. There were also many more cardiac arrests and resuscitations. Each time he came through the surgery and emergency condition with no effects. Doctors and hospital workers were regarding Chris as somewhat of a miracle and celebrity, wherever he went.
Chris attended public school and enjoyed most normal activities that children his age did. Other than his teachers no one knew of his condition and even at a young age, he knew that he wanted it kept that way. He insisted his mother be discrete when making school authorities aware of his condition and not to let the other students know. Even at 9 he was already well aware of how he wanted to deal with his condition and his life. He had fallen one year behind in school due to the amount of time spent in hospitals over the years, but this was not something that caused any concern.
By the time Chris was 7 his mother and father had divorced and his dad had slipped out of his life without showing any interest or concern for his son. His mother needed to find a career to support them and made the decision to become a registered nurse so she could would have a solid profession and to properly help her son, when needed. They moved to London, ON. in 1972, where, by herself, his mother raised and taught him how to fend for himself. It was about this time Chris seemed to become interested in hockey.
First it was street hockey in the driveway but by the time grade 7 approached, Chris was determined to play ice hockey. This despite the fact that he had never learned to skate as a youngster because of the time spent in hospitals. Chris' mother was very concerned for her son's safety and insisted they check with his doctors before allowing him to pursue his hockey. The doctors conceded there was a risk associated with impact to the pacemaker but all agreed that playing hockey would be an acceptable thing to do, if he had proper protective equipment. The doctors were especially happy that he had decided to become a goaltender because this meant that he wouldn't be involved in the contact and there would be more physical recovery periods.
The public school Chris was attending had an intramural hockey program and they were short of goalies. He was very excited about the opportunity to play, but still could not skate. For his first ever game, at 14 years of age and in grade seven, he was pushed into the net by 2 teammates and left to do what came naturally. Chris became fluid in his moves and refined his self-taught technique as a goaltender. He studied goalies on TV and read books on the subject. His skating was still poor yet he worked hard to improve, often plying on a friends backyard rink till 10 or 11 at night. Often that winter he would put water in the driveway, and wait for it to freeze, to make a crease and have friends over to take shots. By the end of the first season, Chris had drastically improved and was awarded the "Best Goaltender" award in the league.
It had also become quite obvious that Chris was a bright child with a high IQ, but he had no ambition or desire fro school work. All of his teachers said that he knew the work yet showed no interest in doing it. His grades were just above a passing mark and he did just what was required to keep them there. Clearly he didn't enjoy school.
Chris' mother had been an alcoholic since the divorce but things were now getting very bad, as she missed time at work and passed out on a nightly basis. He knew that this wasn't a life that interested him. Because of his mothers influence and a family history of alcoholism, he made the decision very early on in life, never to drink or even try it, for fear that he'd fall into the same dependency pattern.
Chris cooked his own meals when there was food in the house but usually his mom would just order in or leave him money to go out and get whatever he wanted. He attended school when he wanted as well, which was about 2/3 of the time. Their home had become a filthy disaster and was only cleaned up every few weeks when his mother would sober up long enough to get through it. She still worked full time as a nurse at the Psychiatric hospital but she was now beginning to show sign of mental illness herself. Yet, Chris was well aware of his mother's love for him and understood that her condition was an illness.
In grade 8 Chris continued to play on the school team, and even caught on with a few men's teams as a practice goalie and was playing several days per week. Then he collapsed in the living room of his home one night, just as he was getting his gear ready for yet another ice time. As fate once again would have it, his mother was there, sober and able to revive him and rush to the hospital where it was determined that a wire connecting the pacemaker to the heart had broken. Emergency surgery was done and everything was repaired. Chris' major concern that evening was that he had to miss hockey and would be out for the remaining month of the season. He had obviously decided that hockey was very important in his life.
Chris had begun working full time during the summer after his first season of hockey and his personal priorities were set, first a complete set of his own goaltending equipment and second a stereo. He had also developed a very strong need for music, especially that of the Beatles. By the end of summer he had purchased his own full set of gear, less the chest pad, which his father had sent him. This was to be the last ever present he would ever receive from his father and also the last time he would ever communicate with him, as he simply walked away from his son and their relationship. There was also a new stereo, and dozens of albums. No money left, but everything he set out to buy had been bought, with his own money.
Chris realized that summer, at 14, that he needed and desperately wanted to be away from his mother. He loved her, but couldn't stand to see her continue to try and kick the booze only to fail once again. The house was getting filthier and the cleanings were getting further apart. There were often dishes stacked, literally 2 feet high, covered in mould and maggots, he was embarrassed of his mother and their home.
There were several lessons learned during that first summer of work. He learned how to set a goal and work toward it; his purchases were proof of this He also learned that if he worked hard at something, he would be rewarded. His employer liked his work and allowed him to stay after the summer. Chris also learned that he liked working and disliked school. He had already promised himself that he was never going to drink or wind up an alcoholic and despite peer pressure and the accessibility of alcohol at home, he never had a drink and to this day refuses to touch it, yet he still went to parties, threw a few of his own and hung out with his friends who did drink.
When he started high school he disliked it as much as public school, yet he enjoyed the freedom it provided. Chris attended school less and less, missing about 50% of the days in grade nine. He now had a license and since his mom worked shifts and was usually passed out drunk while home. Chris often took the car to school and left mid day to go and play hockey with a men's pickup group. He joined a couple of men's leagues and skipped minor hockey altogether. At 15, during the summer, he was playing with 18 to 30 year olds including several NHL players who were skating on summer teams to stay in shape for the upcoming season. During the winter he played as often as possible and never turned down a call to play for anyone.
Chris dropped out of high school in grade 10, he wanted to play more hockey and needed to get out of the house. He found full time work and knew what the plan was. By age 17 he had moved out and was working full time, however he also knew that he needed an education. He decided to take one year off school and return when he had things in order. By the end of that year his mother had been fired from her job and was in dire straights. She had held it together for many years while Chris was at home, but once he left she lost the will to work everyday and her situation had gone from bad to worse. She was now asking if she could move into HIS one bedroom apartment. Chris reluctantly agreed and she slept on the couch for a few months before moving into her own apartment and going on welfare.
Knowing he needed an education, Chris took some night school courses in Business Law and Marketing. These were advanced adult courses and he lied about his education level on the application to be accepted. Chris did very well at these courses, despite their being several years above his level. He returned to school the following year. This was quite difficult because he had always been a year older than anyone in his classes due of the time missed as a youngster while in hospital, he was now returning to grade 10 and was 2 years older than anyone in his classes, yet he persisted. Knowing an education was important.
Chris signed up for his first year of minor hockey, at age 18. He played a year with the 18 & 19 year olds in a house league system and did very well. He continued to play often during the summer and winter months. Usually with players much better than he was. The results were incredible. He was now starting to know the game inside and out. He knew everything about his favourite players and every goaltender in the NHL. Equipment was becoming more important and he studied players to see what they did differently and what was new on the market. Everyone in the local stores knew Chris and he visited them on an almost daily basis. He would regularly tell them things that they hadn't known about new gear or players.
Once his first year in minor hockey had ended, Chris decided that it was time he created his own team. This was his first real taste of management. At 18 he put together his first team and landed a sponsor for the jerseys. Several of his friends were on the team but they were short of a full roster so he ran an ad in the newspaper and interviewed prospective players. They had a great time and the management at the rink grew to know Chris and offered him a job. Soon after he was running adult hockey leagues with 60 teams, handling schedules (before computers), discipline and all other functions. Unfortunately, the rink was in serious financial trouble and closed the following season.
Over the next few years he continued to play a lot of hockey and was soon assembling a team for the best league in the city. Although he continued to play regularly, full time work, girls and friends had cut his playing time down by quite a bit. Chris was now in charge of all operations at a local restaurant and was enjoying the success of his newfound career. He had developed a good sense of organization from running hockey teams and was now building this restaurant into a solid operation, tripling their business in the first year. He was earning a very respectable income and had a luxury downtown apartment and his own car for the first time.
Again, unfortunately, poor ownership decisions caused the operation to close. It seems that Chris had proven himself to be so adept in running this business that the owner felt comfortable in leaving him alone for extended periods of time. The last time he took off, leaving Chris to run the business, for a quick unannounced holiday with his new girlfriend, his wife found out and he cleaned out the bank account and didn't come back.
Shortly before leaving the restaurant, Chris met his future wife, Wendy. She was a gorgeous girl who was the cousin of a regular customer and had become Chris' best friend. This was Chris' first serious relationship and while he continued to regularly play hockey, he now had to juggle his girlfriend, looking for a job, and playing hockey. Hockey was second behind Wendy. She soon moved in with Chris and he asked her to marry him.
Times were very tough and jobs were hard to come by. They were forced to leave his apartment and go on welfare for a short time. Chris was a proud person and hated collecting welfare; he wanted to work and took several low paying odd jobs. He drove a taxi, worked in restaurants and even tried door to door sales in an effort to make ends meet. Despite the tough times, they were married during the summer of 1983.
Times were indeed tough and it looked like they would not make it, but they persisted. A doctor told Chris and that he was eligible for a disability pension because of his heart condition. The thought of accepting a pension, rather than earning his way, was repulsive to Chris and he pursued employment, refusing to even discuss a disability pension.
Late that year, Chris finally landed a job as a management trainee at a major restaurant chain. He was back on his feet and things were starting to look up. Soon Chris & Wendy were expecting their first child. Christina, a healthy girl, who was born on September 4th 1984, added stability to their lives. Through it all, Chris kept playing hockey and was regularly called to play for teams. Chris approached his new employer about sponsorship for a new team he had organized. They agreed and he was once again operating a team. They went into many tournaments, had some success and the players became great friends.
Chris was doing very well in his new job and was promoted several times making it to Head manager in the first year and Regional Manager shortly after that. His store had attained the highest ranking in the company (over 60 stores) and Chris was named Manager of the Year and an advisor to the company Board of Directors.
It was at this time that Chris took his team to Montreal for a tournament where he was injured. Although the injury wasn't serious, Chris couldn't play in the championship game and they had to rent a goaltender from a service that the tournament organizer provided. The team won the championship and Chris had a new business vision.
He returned home and tried to convince his wife that a business renting goaltenders would work. Even though this was only a part time venture, she thought he was crazy. Chris went ahead and started Puckstoppers in London, despite the arguments of his wife. He approached local media and devised a crude Press Release, it wasn't long before Puckstoppers was on the front cover of the London Free Press and had a half page story on the front page of the sports section as well as television and radio interviews It only took a few weeks for the calls to start coming in and the new business was off the ground.
Only a year later, Puckstoppers had daily bookings and over 20 goaltenders on call for rentals on a year round basis. Chris then saw another opportunity. There was only one goaltending school in the area and there was a definite need for another. Puckstoppers Goaltending Schools was created to fill that need and help kids become better goaltenders. Wanting to be different and not compete with the only other established school in the area, Chris set up his school to run on weekends, this proved successful and over 20 students attend the first program during that summer.
It was this same year that Chris decided that he needed to move away from the restaurant management business. Although he had become very successful and was one of the highest paid managers in the company, the next step was a move to Toronto, something the company kept offering and encouraging him to take. He did not want to move 2 hours away and his wife was dead set against this. The long 12-hour days at work and then operating his business at night and with only 2 or 3 hours of sleep a day, were taking their toll. They had just had their second child. Jamie was Chris' first son. This along with their part time business was too much and he knew it was time for a change.
As fate would have it Chris was out looking for a job and decided to stop in and see his old acquaintances at a local sports shop where he had always purchased the jerseys for the many teams he had organized over the years. The owner of the store asked why Chris wasn't at work. He explained that he was looking for a new job. Knowing of Puckstoppers success and the obvious tie in, they immediately offered Chris the job of establishing a goaltending department at the store. This was a product category they weren't involved in and that there was an opening in the market for a goalie shop. The store was known for having a great reputation and was the largest sports store in the area. Although it was for considerably less money than he was making, Chris somehow knew that this was the right opportunity, and accepted.
After only 6 months, Chris was the Head Goaltending Equipment buyer and department manager, the following year he was made Head Buyer for all hockey equipment and quickly established himself in the hockey industry as a knowledgeable buyer and expert in the goaltending field. Many major companies regularly consult with Chris on new projects and product launches. His many articles and papers have been published and ark known throughout the hockey community. During Chris' first 7 years in the sports industry, the store had more than tripled its sales and was now recognized as a world leader. He quickly recognized the growing Internet potential and launched a website, this division of the operation quickly grew to account for almost 25% of their annual sales.
At the same time, Puckstoppers continued to grow. Chris was busy establishing relationships with goaltenders of all ages and from all levels of hockey. He was now gaining attention as an expert for his skills as a buyer, consultant, advisor and as a teacher.
The following years were a blur as Puckstoppers received plenty of media attention; the schools became well established and attracted an international attendance and coaching team. There was now a year round Training Centre for goaltenders and the schools had grown to include 3 different week long programs and many minor hockey clinics throughout the year. There was also a new baby boy at home (Jamie) as well as the purchase of a new home.
Chris was now being invited to major events such as NHL games and awards and was even asked to do radio work as a colours commentator for hockey games, he had the opportunity to meet with many high level hockey people and was fortunate to be one of a very select crowd to be invited to Wayne Gretzky's inauguration into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 1995 Chris was invited by the Finland to work with goaltenders as a guest of the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation for a week. During this time he worked with goaltenders of all ages including Ari Sulander, who would go on to defeat Canada and Patrick Roy at the 1997 Olympics and 3 current NHL drafted goaltenders.
During this whirlwind of activity, Chris and Wendy had a third child. Ryan was born in 1994. Chris' was hospitalized for a short time when his pacemaker was 'recalled' by the factory. Undaunted, he continued to work and play hockey as soon as he was cleared by doctors.
There were several failed business attempts with ventures he now knows should never have taken, but the invaluable experience he gained, made up for the financial losses. These ventures included purchasing a restaurant in 1995, while trying to hold down his full time job and maintain Puckstoppers. There was a fire and a loss of about $20 000 that insurance wouldn't cover. This was devastating to their financial situation. Chris lost his mother suddenly in 1996 and in 2000 even survived a minor bout of flesh eating disease. Although these were difficult situations, his outlook on life remained optimistic as Chris understood that there are lessons in all experiences. He continued to persevere looking for new business opportunities and ways to grow Puckstoppers.
In recent years he has taken his Goaltending Schools International with locations in Houston, South Carolina, Washington DC and Germany. At one point, 300 000 people a month visited puckstoppers.com for information, chat and to become a part of the goaltending community he created.
Chris had learned to focus on the business areas he knows best. The sports store sales had almost quadrupled since he started to work there, the Internet division he single-handedly set-up was now recognized throughout the world as a leader in its field and their website was the number one visited site of its kind for a number of years.
Puckstoppers had now become an Incorporated operation, branching out into new sports areas including launching a new concept fun hockey league for all ages (Just For Fun Hockey League) and a new Internet sports registry portal site www.worldsportfinder.com.
During the late winter of 2003, Chris made the decision to leave the sports retail business. There were many reasons for this, but 17 years in the business was a long time and after all the success he had experienced, the owner kept insisting they look in new directions that Chris did not agree with. Chris felt he was being 'squeezed' out and he stood his ground, knowing that the direction he was being asked to take was wrong. In the year that followed Chris' leaving, , the operation lost more than 50% of the business that Chris was directly responsible for and they have never regained their position in the market.
He took some time to do some serious soul searching and discovered that one of the things he likes to do most, is help others. So he looked for and found a new 'side' career. Life and/or Success Coaching is an emerging profession. Chris researched this field and found that it fulfilled almost all of his personal values and needs as a person and as a profession. Knowing this excited him, so he set out to get the best training he could and attended the world leader in Life Coach training (CTI), receiving his certificate in 2007. Chris now has a private practice (Access Life Coaching) and loves that he can help others in this new field.
Chris now spends his time developing and marketing his Life Coaching practice and Internet businesses and is always working to improve himself through his studies on personal growth and is continually working in refining his business operations. 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of Puckstoppers!
In the hockey world, the average playing career is often shorter than the time you would spend in high school. The average hockey or goaltending school usually lasts about the same amount of time. Yet, Puckstoppers Goaltending Schools is celebrating their 20th anniversary, There are very few independent schools who survive beyond 5 years, let alone TWENTY! This puts Puckstoppers in the top 5% of all goalie schools in the world in terms of longevity!
Sure, a few of the big corporate schools have been around longer. But, these are big business operations that hire outside people to run their programs and the staff changes pretty much every time they hit the ice. Puckstoppers is an owner operated goalie school run by Chris, who attendeds every school they present. They are staffed by many of the same instructors each and every time they take to the ice. A good reason for their success is the consistency and dedication they offer in their goaltending instruction. Chris has developed a real winning combination and team.
The bio on Mr. Dyson has many chapters to come and we don't want anyone to think this was written to brag or inflate Chris' ego. He only agreed to have this published here in hope that it can inspire someone with a physical challenge or personal struggle, to get through the tough times and focus on making 'it' happen. Have a goal and work toward it, understanding that there WILL be challenges and these challenges should be viewed as learning experiences, not something to get upset about. Life is what you make of it, don't ever expect anyone to stop and hand you anything, go and make your own path.