Cooperalls were manufactured by Cooper Canada from 1972 to 1975. Made for ice-hockey equipment, Cooperalls were long hockey pants that featured a waist-to-ankle outer shell. They were supposed to be the next step in apparel evolution, replacing the short pants worn by players in the 50s and 60s.
Cooperalls were the brainchild of Brian Heaton – the senior designer for Cooper Canada during the early 70s. Heaton designed these long pants to secure “a complete hockey uniform system.” This would include an elastic girdle, which extended from the rib cage to the top of the knees. The outer shell would consist of tracksuit-style woven nylon, which extended from the waist to the ankles.
The girdle also had pockets protected by lightweight foam pads. Cooperalls were designed to replace the old-school combination of short hockey pants and socks. However, players could still don light shin guards, shoulder pads and gloves and feel much freer in Cooperalls than in conventional, bulkier uniforms. Take a look at this video, which highlights the evolution of the long pants.
The Ontario Hockey League adopted these long pants in the late 1970s. A number of NHL teams, including the Jets and Nordiques, would adopt Cooperalls as well. The interconnective padding of the Cooperalls was the main reason the Flyers would switch to these uniforms in 1981. As one of the League’s premier teams, the Flyers were both heralded and ridiculed for wearing the long, dark pants. In fact, some referred to the players who wore them as the “cowboys of the NHL.”
While stylish and a break from the norm, Cooperalls did receive their fair share of criticism from fans and teams alike. Drawbacks included:
· Cooperalls having less friction with the ice during falls – resulting in players sliding harder into the boards.
· Although they were certainly lighter than traditional uniforms, Cooperalls were considered too warm.
· The puck was difficult for goalies to see against the long black pants worn by opposing players.
The Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes) popularized the Cooperall look during the 1982-83 NHL season as well. However, in response to growing criticism, the NHL mandated that teams had to wear short pants – as well as home and away socks, from the 1983-84 season onwards. Although Cooperalls did fade in popularity in the mid-to-late 80s, some amateur hockey leagues kept the look alive, and Cooperalls still are available today.
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