Protecting Young Hockey Players, Protecting the Game

We’re told minor hockey registration in Canada has been falling over the past several years for a bunch of reasons; but the two primary I’ve heard are cost of hockey and player safety. The cost of playing hockey is not going to go down any time soon, though there are several initiatives out there to try to offer low cost options for those just discovering the game. But hell, what sport or activity for kids isn’t getting more expensive; particularly if your children are getting involved in competitive sports? I can attest to the unweildy cost of the game having raised two competitive players for 15+ years. $200+ composite sticks and $600 skates certainly didn’t help. Still, I have friends competitive soccer players, gymnasts and dancers who likely spent as much or in some cases more to support their kids’ passions. So there’s likely not much we can really do about the cost of the game.

However, there are ways the game can be made safer, keeping in mind it is still a fast sport played on a slick surface with sharp blades attached to player’s feet, stiff formerly wooden, but still solid, sticks and hard rubber pucks shot at each other on purpose. There are lots of people and companies out there looking for innovative solutions to keep kids relatively safe and thereby ease the fears of parents considering letting their children play Canada’s favourite winter sport.

One such company I’ve recently come across is Oneiric Hockey founded by Emily Rudow, a Waterloo grad and hockey lover in her own right. She and her team have developed an innovative pair of protective hockey pants designed to make it easier for kids to dress themselves (which every parent of a young player can appreciate) and to provide extra protection to vulnerable areas of players’ bodies (parent benefit number two). Oneiric_cut+resistant+ankleThe cool Under Armour-like pants have pockets in front to slip in and hold shin pads in place, enabling kids to put on their own shin pads and negating the need for rolls and rolls to disposable hockey tape. One year, the Devil accumulated and carried around a giant ball of used clear hockey tape at least the size of my head. Correction, quite often it was me carrying around said ball. Score three goals for player self-sufficiency, lighter hockey gear and saving a little money on tape.

The next two equipment innovations are the addition of a cut resistant material around the ankle area and some extra padding on the back of the thighs where hockey pants often fall short. You need only ask Erik Karlsson how important protecting this area is after he suffered an achilles injury a couple of years back.



Emily at Oneiric sent me a pair to “try out.” As a “retired” hockey dad, I unfortunately no longer have my own players to provide feedback and I certainly wasn’t going to fit this old body into a pair for a rec league game, so I passed them along to a friend of Momma’s who has an 11 year old playing competitively. To say she is a fan of her new pants would be a blatant understatement. Her mom says they are so “comfy,” she’s A big fan of Oneiric hockey pants.been wearing them around the house like pajamas (not something she’s likely to keep doing after having played in them a few times and building up the old familiar hockey smell). Mom and dad are happy about their young player being able to get dressed and undressed quicker, along with the peace of mind the added protection provides. She is only playing Atom now, but accidents can happen at any age when skates, sticks and ice are involved. As an interested bystander with a hockey dad history, I can appreciate the benefits this important piece of equipment bring and wonder why its taken so long for someone to come up with this type of innovation. Oneiric has been getting some positive press of late and with good reason; they are trying to help save our beloved game by making it a little bit safer for our young players who a key to its long-term stability and growth. I’m a big fan of anyone who’s focus is on protecting kids and encouraging them to play hockey safely. So thanks to Emily and her team for their vision and commitment. I encourage hockey dads and moms to check out Oneiric at

sporting new Oneiric hockey pants












Disclaimer: I did receive one pair of Oneiric Hockey pants at no cost, but have received no other compensation to publish this post.

Dry and Protected in New Hockey Gear

Hockey has been called the fastest game on Earth. Though fans of Jai Alai or Hurling may argue the point, it is certainly the fastest game where the players (not the balls, pucks or other objects) are self-propelled across a slick surface and not mechanically aided by a horse, car or some other instrument. The other major team sports (football, basketball, soccer and baseball) are virtually in slow motion by comparison. The speed of the game played on ice is definitely one of its biggest attractions. With speed, comes a degree of danger, which no doubt serves to heighten the attraction. Hockey can be a dangerous game as players race around the ice with sticks in hand on razor sharp skates. You need only ask NHL players like Erik Karlsson or Dave Bolland who both had their ankle tendons accidentally severed by skates over the last couple of seasons. Most older NHL hockey fans will quickly reference goaltender Clint Malarchuk who’s neck was horrifically cut by a blade back in 1989. Those who are squeamish should probably not watch the video below, but I offer it here for its shock value and for fans of blood and gore.

Regardless the level of hockey played, accidents do happen. I personally recall one men’s rec game a couple of years ago when I failed to put in my mouthguard. Without fail during my first shift an opposing players stick accidentally came up and caught me square in the chicklets. No major damage was done, but I headed directly to the change room to retrieve my guard and have tried not to play without one ever since. In my often client- facing career, it would not be good to show up looking like Bobby Clarke from the 70s, as much as the look may appeal to the ladies.

Bobby Clarke

The danger associated with the game is also given as one of the main deterrents by parents thinking about signing up their children and a partial reason (#2 to cost) for a drop in minor hockey registration in Canada. Base360 ankle protectionThere are plenty of documented stories, like the NHL ones above, of kids getting concussed or cut. With the aforementioned speed of the game these things are bound to happen. If we want to grow the game we’re going to have to come up with ways to make it safer; including developing better equipment. I’ve recently come across a company who’s doing it (full disclosure…I have received free products from the company to test and talk about). BASE360 and Garmatex have partnered to develop and market a new base layer product (tops, pants, shorts and socks), which incorporates cut-resistant Kevlar® in the “cut zones” around a player’s calves, ankles and wrists. This company also develops base layer clothing for speed skaters and law enforcement officers, which naturally adds to the sense of security you feel when wearing it. BODYARMOUR is a line specifically developed for sale through Canadian Tire.

Generally, a couple of the problems and complaints many athletes have with wearing protective equipment is the restrictiveness of it or the heat buildup caused by the additional layer. However, I can attest as a player (albeit far from professional calibre) who does more than his fair share of perspiring, Base360 actually cuts down on the amount of sweat you feel when you play. I usually only wear ratty sweat shorts and sleeveless base layer shirt under the rest of my gear, so I was initially hesitant to wear full length compression pants (with a built in jock, which goes without saying is another critical protective item) and a long sleeve shirt. I was amazed after my first game in the gear how relatively dry I was. I’m not sure where my normal buckets of sweat went, but they were not hanging from my arms or legs and the Base360 gear was dry as well. “Is this some sort of magic cloth?” I asked my perplexed self. The Devil has also taken to wearing the new gear and has likewise marvelled at how well it works as a base layer. As both a player and parent, I am comforted knowing we have the additional layer of protection against unintentional skate blade incidents. While he never encountered any issues, I certainly would have outfitted the Boy in this stuff had it been available when he played competitive hockey. To me this part seems like a no-brainer for the parents of any hockey player at any age. Maybe this type of gear (cost notwithstanding) should even be deemed required equipment just like neck and mount guards. Most kids are already wearing some type of base layer, so adding the extra protection of Kevlar® without adding extra bulk only makes sense. What price do you put on making sure your child is fully and properly protected knowing accidents do happen? I’m pleased to have been introduced to Base360 and encourage hockey moms, dads and players alike to try it out for themselves.