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Redefining retirement

August 27, 2014

First and foremost, Dave Dryden is a husband and parent of two. But he's also worn many other hats throughout his life: he was an educator at the Peel District School Board; an NHL goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers; a consultant for the NHL; and a volunteer with the Canadian charity Sleeping Children Around the World, which was founded by his father Murray Dryden. He attributes the ability to learn and apply transferable skills as the enabler for these diverse experiences.

Most people would say I was best as a goaltender because I had made it into the NHL," said Dave Dryden. "Realistically, the place I felt most alive was teaching."

Navigating careers

Dave enrolled in teachers' college straight out of high school and enjoyed every minute of it. In 1959, when Dave was 19, he became a full-time teacher. Six years later, he was offered an opportunity of a lifetime and accepted a contract with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. Although Dave put teaching on the back burner to play hockey full-time, he was committed to education. Throughout his NHL career, Dave continued to work on his university degree through correspondence and did supply teaching during the NHL off season.

After 12 years as an NHL goalie, Dave hung up his skates and transitioned back to education full-time as a special ed teacher, and later, a principal. He also became more involved with Sleeping Children around the World (SCAW), a charity that raises money and distributes bedkits to children living in poverty. As a 100% charity, every dollar of every donation received by SCAW goes towards the cause. Built on the notion that every child deserves a good night's sleep, the charity has raised more than $23 million to provide bedkits for children in more than 30 countries.

Retiring from teaching

Dave retired from teaching at age 56. "I hated seeing a person retire when they were sour. I didn't want that to happen to me because I loved teaching so much."

Immediately following his retirement, Dave accompanied his father on his final bedkit distribution with SCAW to India. Months later, Dave stepped out of retirement and accepted a consulting job with the NHL where he helped regulate goaltender equipment. In his new role, Dave realized quite quickly how transferable his skills as a principal were, similar to how his skills as a teacher prepared him for the role of a principal.

"I resolved conflict with these goaltenders just like I would with my grade 8s. We made them sign a contract to ensure they were accountable for their actions."

The toughest part of retirement

In 2003, Dave ended his contract with the NHL and officially retired.

"When I retired from teaching, I still collected a paycheque through my consulting work with the NHL," remembers Dave. "But when I became a full-time volunteer for SCAW, I stopped receiving that pay cheque. It made me pause and reflect on the fact that I would never again receive work income in the traditional sense."

Money wasn't a motivator but it was still a game changer for Dave. It was at that moment he learned never again to judge his worth on whether he was paid for it.

Practicing what you preach

Teachers are meant to encourage their students to be lifelong learners. Dave believes that's also the key to retirement.

"I love the challenge of getting involved and remaining relevant," said Dave. "We as teachers have an amazing skillset and we need to recognize and use it by challenging ourselves to get involved."

Dave is currently the chairman of SCAW. He has traveled on more than 20 bedkit distributions throughout countries including India, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Philippines. He has also become an avid speed skater, which he first took up because it was one of his granddaughter's interests.

Dave Dryden on the pension plan…

"Thank goodness for the pension plan. We didn't make much money as a teacher or as a hockey player back then, and so I'm thankful for the pension now. I'm particularly proud of the Teachers' pension plan.  Historically, they have handled themselves well. They are classy and ethical."