Hockey has been around for over a century, and the equipment over that time has changed drastically. From needing to tape magazines and newspapers to your shins, to now being able to fully customize how your gear looks and feels, the hockey equipment industry has come a long way. We’ve seen some incredible advancements that has led to significant improvements on player safety and performance, but we’ve also seen some blips of gear that may have been an interesting concept, but couldn’t live up to the hype. Whether they had negative impacts with performance, safety, or just didn’t work at all, you’ll be surprised at some of the gear that players had used.
Image via NHL
You more than likely have noticed these in older photos from the late 70’s to early 80’s by the Philadelphia Flyers and Hartford Whalers. The Cooperall was designed so players can have a snugger fit from their mid-section all down to their ankles to provide additional protection that other gear couldn’t provide when pieced together. Combined with that and the apparent reduction in weight without loss of protection, they were aimed to provide players an edge over their competitors. Unfortunately for them, the designs came with some unwanted drawbacks.
If a player lost their balance and fell while in motion, they would tend to slide much further and faster due to the lack of friction from the outer pant shell. This resulted in higher injury risk if a player were to fall and slide into the boards. Another drawback included players feeling overheated with the lack of breathable fabrics in the pants, resulting in high levels of discomfort. In the end, the NHL was forced to ban the Cooperall design due to safety concerns, and forced to go back to the standard hockey pants and socks we all see today. (Didn’t help they had a rather bad design from a fashion standpoint, yikes.)
Cooper Legend Goalie Glove
Image via Pinterest | Tom Smeyers
Throughout the evolution of gear, players and goalies would often customize their equipment to help give them an extra edge. For goalies, the most significant addition was the “cheater” which was an added piece of material that extended from the outside of the thumb and down to the cuff of the glove, with Mike Palmateer being one of the earliest Leaf netminders to use it. Since then, glove manufacturers have added their own twists and modifications to the design, but the most unique one has to go to Cooper.
The Cooper Legend glove included not one, not two, but three areas where there was webbing; the main pocket between the thumb and index finger, the cheater as mentioned above, and across the bottom of the cuff. My assumption with the design is it was meant to reduce the overall weight of the glove, and help control rebounds when hitting the cuff and cheater. The NHL must’ve seen this glove and thought “oh man, no one’s going to be able to score with this on” so now goalies must have their equipment sized, approved and signed by Kay Whitmore, the Senior Director of Hockey Operations for the NHL, and whose signature you would see on gloves, blockers and pads.
“Curtis Curve” Goalie Sticks
Image via TheGoalNet
Finally, something that isn’t from Cooper. This type of curve is not a typical blade curve like all the current sticks refer to. No no, this refers to the curve that starts a few inches from where the shaft meets the paddle of the stick, and proceeds to bend inwards until it’s aligned with the outside of the paddle, and flattens out.
The idea behind this style was to provide a much greater seal to the ice when a goalie would put the paddle down to prevent any pucks from sliding through. Although this design may have had some benefit to that portion of the game, it didn’t seem to provide much else for goalies. My dad used a stick with this same curve when he played in the 80’s, and he referred to this stick as “heavy’ and “difficult to use.” Recently a new hockey company called Elevate Hockey released a player version of a curved stick with some positive reviews. Maybe the Curtis Curve was ahead of its time? Maybe we’ll see something shortly from them with their version of a curved goalie stick.
Reebok Pump Skates
Image via Dave’s Sport Shop
I never used these skates personally, but I did try them on when I was looking for a new pair right around the time when they first came out. It’s a very unique concept where players can simply push a button on the side of their skates to pump air and create more of a cushion for their feet, creating a more custom fit to the skates. While they continue to use this same feature for their now branded CCM Ribcore line, to me it wasn’t as reliable at the beginning.
The biggest issue with these skates was the pump failing at random points in the skate’s life. I used to work at a retail store that had a sports department and sold Reebok Pump skates. More times than not, the pumps did not work right out of the box, and often needed to be returned due to them failing. While they have certainly improved the technology over time, it’s been tough for me to just forget the struggles at the beginning and remember how often they were returned.
While this is a very short list of very interesting hockey gear throughout history, I wanted to show some of the odd innovations that brands took with gear to help give players an additional edge with their game. There are many more strange pieces of gear out there in hockey past, so stay tuned for another list at some point in the future to cover more interesting hockey gear innovations.