Lord of Automation: Byron Dafoe goes from goalie to gadget guru
George Gordon Byron, the 19th-century English poet commonly known as Lord Byron, famously said that “the busy have no time for tears.” In the 21st century, with ever-evolving technology constantly at one’s fingertips, the busy have no time to waste on even the simplest of tasks. Enter Byron Dafoe — also of the “Lord Byron” moniker — a 12-year NHL veteran and Vezina-nominated goaltender who’s now making his mark as an expert in home automation, providing clients with the ultimate setup for convenience and control to help truly bring the latest and greatest technology to life.
Dafoe, a 171-game winner during his NHL career with the Caps, Kings, Bruins and Thrashers, formed a partnership with Crestron, the Atlanta-based manufacturer of home automation systems, to start Diamante Custom Automation following his retirement during the 2004-05 lockout.
What long ago began as a hobby for the former netminder is now serious business, as the NHL’s shutout leader during the 1998-99 season now outfits luxurious homes for a number of high-profile clients — a group which, unsurprisingly, includes a few current and former NHLers — all while continuing to add to his growing real-estate portfolio.
We caught up with Dafoe to discuss his transition from goaltender to gadget guru.
After a 12-year career in the pros, is it hard to believe it’s now been 12 years since your last NHL game? Does it feel like a lifetime ago, like yesterday or somewhere in between?
DAFOE: It feels like a long time, but it really did go by fast.
What moment, season or accomplishment are you most proud of when you reflect on your NHL career?
DAFOE: Being nominated for the Vezina and being a Second Team All-Star, on a personal level, was a great accomplishment, but winning the Eastern Conference (regular-season title) as a team was very exciting, as the city really got behind us. Always great how passionate Bruins fans are.
When did your passion for technology, home electronics and home automation really start to develop?
DAFOE: I always had automated systems in my homes starting when I was in L.A. I really enjoy music and movies, so proper picture and sound quality was always important. When I saw the ability to control my entire house, I became very interested.
In a piece with The Hockey News a few years back, you mentioned that you were considering relocating from your then-current home in Kelowna. Did that end up happening?
DAFOE: No. My two boys are now 14 and 16 and have schooling, as well as hockey commitments, so we have stayed put. My house is completely automated, so I use it as a show home for potential clients.
What are some of the standout automation elements of your home? Which one impresses potential clients the most?
DAFOE: I think the ability to adjust lighting, HVAC, audio, video and security from their phone or iPad impresses most people. I would say the biggest wow factor right now is being able to distribute 4K video on any of the TVs throughout my house.
You’ve had your share of Diamante clients from the NHL ranks. Are most of them a blank slate, or do they come to you with ideas? Any standout stories or requests? What’s the process generally like from start to finish?
DAFOE: Here in Kelowna, there are a lot of current and former NHL players, and I am fortunate to work with some of them. Most guys have some ideas and wants. I give more options and try to blend a system so that they can do everything they wish and more. For one of my clients, we put in a 150-inch window wall which consisted of six 50-inch screens, so he was able to see six different shows or a combination of one bigger screen with two other ones, or one massive screen. Very cool!
Generally with new clients, we meet during their design phase with their architects so that when the plans are complete, we have had our input. Once the house is framed we come in and pre-wire so that low voltage wire is run throughout the house. Finally, right before furniture goes in, we install all the electronics and custom program the entire system to the client’s needs.
Back during your playing days, there was no Wi-Fi, no Amazon Echo, no Hue Lights — all products that have given consumers an easy path toward creating their own home automation setup. Do you view that as some sort of competition, or do you think it opens up potential clients’ eyes to the premium configurations that a company like Diamante can offer?
DAFOE: I actually find that it helps us because more people are aware of automation, and in the bigger homes, they expect it. Where I find Diamante Custom Automation differs is that we have the capability through Crestron to completely customize every aspect of a client’s home. Basically, if a wire can be run to it, we can control it. It then comes down to our programming so that the interface is simple, yet has all the capabilities to control the most complex system.
What is your home theater setup like for when the Dafoe clan sits down to watch a movie?
DAFOE: We have a nice nine-seat theatre that is run by a Runco 4K projector with a 120-inch Black Diamond screen. It has a 7.2 surround sound system powered by JBL speakers. We watch a lot of hockey games and movies in it. There is still not a lot of 4K content, but when there is, the picture quality is amazing. I compare it to when high definition came in over standard.
We were blown away by the leap to hockey in HD. Now we’re — hopefully — on the cusp of the sport being regularly broadcast in 4K. What’s it like to witness that when you compare where broadcasts or even watching game film were at during your playing days?
DAFOE: Watching 4K is so vibrant and the darks are so rich. When you see a close-up on a person, the expression and clarity really comes through. I think hockey players will find it tough to disguise how they truly feel when a 4K camera is in their face!
Think we’ll ever get the Kolzig-Dafoe showdown remastered in Ultra-HD? How often do you get questions about that when you meet someone?
DAFOE: I still get lots of questions and comments. Olie and I are still really good friends. He was just up visiting with his family this summer. We still have a good laugh about it over a glass of wine!
What developments are you most excited about when it comes to home electronics and automation?
DAFOE: I enjoy that it is ever-changing and adjusting. The reason I promote Crestron is because they have been around for 40 years and are at the top of the game. Whether it’s a renovation or new build, it’s always challenging to figure out what all the options are. It keeps you your toes and means you have to always be up on what’s the latest and greatest.
Is Diamante a seven-days-a-week endeavor? What are your other passions and pursuits?
DAFOE: Owning Diamante has been a great business for me, post-hockey. We have done over 50 installations in Cabo San Lucas, as well as numerous large homes in Kelowna. We have started doing some commercial applications as well, which has been a nice change. It keeps me busy, but it has very busy weeks and then slows down as we wait on the builds.
My youngest is going to play hockey for Okanagan Hockey Academy next year — owned by Dixon Ward, another former Bruin. Up until now, I have always coached him, which has been a real passion for me to watch him grow as a player and person. No, he’s not a goalie. Thank God!
To learn more about Dafoe’s home automation business, head to Diamante’s official website.