I only learned how to play hockey as an adult, and it was a painful initiation into the game. Constant falls, brutal crashes into other players, and this was all just me trying to get to the locker room to get my gear on.
Oneiric founder Emily Rudow got into hockey when she was eight years old. She loved to play the game, but getting her gear on was the one thing that caused anxiety. “I hated it,” said Rudow, “on the way to the arena I would start to get nervous. Shin pads, shoulder pads… it was a lot for a little kid.”
The idea that there’s got to be an easier way stuck in Rudow’s mind. It wasn’t until her fourth year at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) in Waterloo that the idea started to turn into something real. For a course assignment, Rudow presented her idea for hockey pants where kids could simply step in and be dressed and ready to play. Her idea received the most votes in the class and formed a team to develop a business plan.
With a grant from WLU professor Steve Farlow, and funding from friends and family, Rudow spent the next four years getting the Oneiric pants designed and prototyped. The pants have built-in shin pad pockets that allow kids to securely place shin pads without the need for hockey tape. They also have additional padding at the back of the leg and cut-resistant ankle protection – great for skating with kids who haven’t mastered proper stick control.
Rudow worked with designer Ching Mark at Niko Apparel in Guelph, Ontario, to get the right mix of form and function before sourcing manufacturers. “We did over 100 tests with 50 different iterations of the product,” said Rudow, “It’s hard to find padding that’s washable, the right cut resistant material, and something that looks sleek.”
One of the design problems the team had to overcome was not just making the pants work with a variety of protective gear, but also with how players use the gear. “Hockey players, even young ones, are particular with how they wear their pads,” added Rudow, “We asked ‘What if I want to put shin pad over the tongue of the skate?’ and worked with our designer and manufacturer to come up with a really great change that didn’t impact the design or functionality of the pants.”
Oneiric launched online pre-orders in September of 2015 and is currently fulfilling those orders – getting kids on the ice faster and safer. The pants are available in an original design and one specifically made for goalies. Oneiric is currently selling through independent sporting good stores and at tournaments, with targets on larger retailers in 2017. They’ve also built and launched an online store powered by Shopify.
“We’re making a destination product where people come into stores specifically for our pants,” said Rudow, “Ultimately we’re making a product that makes parents feel great and has kids saying ‘What are those? Those look really awesome.’”