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For the first time in nearly 40 years, Cooperalls returned to the NHL ice last night, as the Flyers wore the long pants (along with their new Reverse Retro jerseys) for pregame activities ahead of last night’s home game against the Blues.
By now you probably know the backstory, but here it is one more time, just in case: The Flyers and Whalers wore Cooperalls from 1981 through 1983. The pants were banned after that because they didn’t provide enough friction against the ice surface, so players who fell often slammed into the boards at a higher speed than would happen with standard short pants and socks. (I’ve never understood why they couldn’t simply adjust the fabric to deal with this problem.)
Here’s a bunch of additional photos from last night’s Cooperalls revival:
And here are two short video clips:
Dads all around the Delaware Valley wiping a tear from their eye seeing the Flyers in the old school cooperalls pic.twitter.com/h8zU4Dm2ka
Not bad! Just one problem: Although I don’t have a photo, reports indicated that Gritty did not wear Cooperalls last night. That is a truly colossal oversight — one that I hope they’ll rectify for their next RR game.
ITEM! New Uni Watch Power Rankings for Orange Uniforms
This is a very orange time of year — pumpkins, foliage, and so on. So for this week’s Premium article on Substack, I’ve put together a Uni Watch Power Rankings rundown of the all-time best orange uniforms.
You can read a good chunk of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber to my Premium content on Substack, which I hope you’ll consider doing. Thanks!
’Rup the Vote!
No matter how you feel about yesterday’s election results, I think we can agree that everyone wins when you wear stirrups to the polls, as longtime Uni Watch reader John Kimmerlein did yesterday. Looking good, John!
Speaking of looking good, reader David Staples wore a Uni Watch T-shirt to the polls:
And designer Conrad Burry created this very cool graphic encouraging people to vote:
Gift Guide Reminder
I’m about to start working on my annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide. If you have any suggestions for cool uni-, logo-, or design-related items (not the usual Fanatics-style stuff), please send them my way. Self-promotion is fine, so don’t be shy.
What Paul Did Last Night
I’ve written a few times over the years about how I really like chicken wing tips, which are the “extra” part of chicken wings. (Here’s a piece I wrote about them 10 years ago.) Most chicken wing recipes call for the tips to be discarded or saved for stock, but I’ve always considered them to be a special treat.
So I was excited when my friend Harley recently told me that he’d spotted wing tips on the menu of a Taiwanese eatery in Flushing, Queens (which is one of NYC’s several Chinatowns). I’d never seen tips offered for sale at a restaurant before!
Last night I met up with Harley at the restaurant in question, which is called Partea. It’s basically a fast-food counter, not a sit-down restaurant. Sure enough, the menu included “Spicy Chicken Wing Tips” for $7.95, so that’s what we ordered. The cashier looked at us quizzically and said, “You know that the tip is the bottom part of the wing, right? It’s mostly bone.” We assured her that we knew what we were doing. (I’m fairly certain that her concern was rooted in the fact that we were the only non-Asians in the place.)
The tips came in a little paper sack. They were deep-fried, which we hadn’t expected:
Were they good? Duh, they were deep-fried, so of course they were good. Really nice spice powder, too — packed a nice little punch. Still, deep-frying something as small as a wing tip feels like cheating, because you end up eating at least as much of the exterior breading as you do of the underlying tip. I’d rather see a restaurant roast the tips, or dry-sauté them, or pretty much anything other than deep-frying. Maybe one day I’ll find a place that does that.
I’m not really a hockey fan, but I’m amazed at the love there is for Cooperalls! For me aesthetically they seem to be in the same ballpark as pajama bottoms in baseball and mono-tights in football. Perhaps someone who likes them can explain the attraction :)
It’s sort of like the White Sox wearing shorts — there’s a fun/novelty factor.
I was similarly wondering if the love for cooperalls was rooted in nostalgia or if most people actually thought they looked better than the short/sock combo.
I’m old enough to remember them when they were rolled out in the early 1980s. I never thought they looked *better* than the traditional look, but I thought they were an interesting option. Not better, but not necessarily worse either — just *different.* On some level, I appreciated that slacks (which is what Cooperalls basically are) made more sense and looked more streamlined than the cumbersome shorts/socks combo.
I wouldn’t want a world in which every NHL team wore Coops, but I definitely wouldn’t mind a world where a few teams wore them.
Thanks Paul, that makes sense :)
Paul, I once read an article decades ago that some NHL goaltenders complained that they “couldn’t see the puck” as the player came stick-handling down the ice wearing Cooperalls. I’ve searched for that quote online to no avail. But the friction problem you mentioned sounds better anyway!
Another interesting wrinkle is the effort to change out of the Cooperalls. Tying hockey skates takes time and usually the wearer is very particular. Most pregame changes are just jerseys but changing the bottom layer and having to retie the skates, I wonder how players felt about that.
I also had heard that goalies complained about them. I assumed that was why they were banned.
I learned something today.
There is definitely a novelty element at play here, and I certainly wouldn’t want them to be a full-time thing, especially since player safety was part of the reason the Cooperalls went away in the first place.
That being said, I think they look great. The stripes on the sides really make it for me…
Maybe the fabric technology wasn’t there 40 years ago to update.
They could’ve just used the fabric from regular pants (“breezers”). I suspect the fabric explanation was not entirely in good faith.
Another factor in the banning of the long pants was, is was easier to draw tripping penalties when opposing players’ sticks got caught in the leg opening of the long pants.
“The pants were banned after that because they didn’t provide enough friction against the ice surface, so players who fell often slammed into the boards at a higher speed than would happen with standard short pants and socks. (I’ve never understood why they couldn’t simply adjust the fabric to deal with this problem.)”
With the Cooperalls actually made by Cooper, the texture of the material was not slick even in the mid-1980s. The stripes along the sides were slick, but the other material had some texture and not a slick surface. Uncontrollable sliding was not a problem.
I do enjoy how the Flyer combined details of both sets of Cooperalls into 1 for this. They hay the stripes on the side in 1981-82. No stripes but added logo on the ankle in 1982-83.
Cooperalls took hockey with a storm in 1981. It was a radical departure from the traditional look but everyone wanted to try the body hugging girdle, which was a step up in protection from loose fitting breezers. Last night resonated with everyone who played during the mid 80s and wore the long pants. I still have my girdle and pants shell. Cooper also had a high cut jersey with stripes to match the pants Kamloops wore them for a full game a few years back. Great look Flyers!
The Cooperall thing also got me wondering why is it exactly that the mono-look in general is so bad, especially for football. Instinctively, as Paul has mentioned before, it feels like it is something to do with the lack of contrast. But is there anything going on apart from bad aesthetics? Well I wonder if it’s something to do with being able to see the player movement better? When jersey, pants and socks are different there is a contrast boundary at the knees and waist. If you are watching a football game like that, then maybe it’s easier to see what the players are doing, how they are moving? When they are wearing a mono-look, it all sort of merges into one making it harder to see the action.
Also when you consider soccer where the mono look is ubiquitous there isn’t the same sort of contrast problem because the players wear shorts and socks so there is a break in between. Plus in soccer the gaps between players is generally much higher than in football anyway.
Thank you for a very good analysis. Thrown in “tradition” and you have all we need to know why Cooperalls disappeared.
why is it exactly that the mono-look in general is so bad, especially for football
I find it to be a microcosm of our society. It’s very polarizing. All one color vs all another color…I can’t watch for very long. I need a third or fourth color, the way I could use a third or fourth party.
Almost-mono games like Sunday’s Panthers/Bengals, I don’t mind as much. I even liked that one. The Colts at New England wasn’t too bad.
But last week’s Chargers/Falcons game…MONOtonous. Unwatchable. And I’ve had enough of the played-out icy-white vs ninja college football matchups, especially when the numbers and logos don’t contrast enough.
I can live with mono uniforms as long as the other team breaks it up with two or three colors. Take the Vikings/Commanders. Not an ideal matchup but I could still watch it.
I like mono unis when the two teams look good together. For example, take the famous 2015 Bills-Jets game, when both teams wore their Color Rush unis (Bills in red, Jets in green). Both of those unis were horrible on their own IMO, but I thought the contrast of the red and green on the field together looked great. (Yes, I’m aware that I have the advantage of not being color-blind.)
“I’m aware that I have the advantage of not being color-blind”
I would respectfully disagree. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have full spectrum vision and watched this game likely wished we were color blind. I know I did.
To me, seeing those RR jerseys with the black Cooperalls felt like an ode to the 1980s Medicine Hat Tigers.
Remember when you didn’t do rankings?
Vaguely. The Uni Watch Power Rankings debuted on ESPN in the summer of 2012, so I’ve been doing rankings for over a decade now (or, to put it another way, I’ve been doing rankings for almost as long as I *didn’t* do rankings). I still try to do them sparingly, but I long ago acknowledged that they have their uses.
As a 90s kid who became a hockey fan from the Mighty Ducks movie and the roller hockey craze the Flyers cooperalls have that 90s RHI look which brings back memories! However the TV product the NHL offers these days is unwatchable! The helmet and jersey ads aren’t very intrusive but the digital ads on the boards and the ones added on the ice make my eyes twitch. I’d love to see a soccer style tv product where the ice surface is blank w just the lines needed for the game to be played and I’m aware that ads are a part of it but to have maybe a ticker style ribbon on the bottom of the screen that would make a hockey game look more like a soccer game. Hope that makes sense. Anyone else feel this way? Or has any one else stopped watching hockey based on these things and find it hard to no longer follow a sport they have for a long time?
I’ve been a fan of NASCAR (where ‘sponsorship’ has always been baked into the cake) since I was a single-digits old, but I no longer watch flag-to-flag coverage on tv and attended 0 races this season.
Since they bumped the ‘door’ numbers forward in Cup to maximize ad space, the cars look ridiculous, and even the racing surfaces at many tracks have been painted with product/services wordmarks. Add to that the gimmick race at the LA Coliseum and covering Bristol with dirt every year and I can’t bear to tune in.
The irony of all this is that the Flyers (and Whalers who also wore them) didn’t actually wear Cooperalls. They both wore the CCM version which I believe were called Panta. Cooperalls just became the name everyone called the girdle/pant combos, like Kleenex vs tissue.
CCM Propac was the long-pant brand name for CCM. I have not heard of Panta?
Propac is what Wikipedia says they were called, but I’d never heard of that so I did some light reading and found an article on Sportsnet.ca that claims the CCM version were called Pro Guards. That doesn’t ring a bell either-we need a CCM historian!
Never heard this Pro Guards. It was Propac or maybe spelled different (2 words). Logo on the pants here.
I seem to recall the goalies didn’t (couldn’t?) wear them. Something to do with the flexibility of their legs once the pads were strapped over the long pants.
My reservations were the half light/half dark coloration of team in white jerseys; okay for tackle football, not so for shinny. This could have been addressed by having a home set and a road set.
The Flyers’ numbers would have looked better with orange outlines.
The Flyers are a season too late with the Cooperalls revival.
Last year’s RR sweater would have looked so much better paired with those…and I am of the opinion that white hockey jerseys (almost) always look better than their colored counterparts.
Liked the feature on orange uniforms, as it is my favorite color it was enjoyable to see where you stood on various teams. And you are in good company with the though that 1) the Bengals helmets are ugly and 2) they should wear orange instead of black.
Was thinking, and not sure if you have already done this, perhaps a ranking of uniforms of teams that no longer exists, either due to relocation/rename or other reasons. Though I am just going to assume the Whalers would rank #1 off the bat.
Dig the VOTE graphics. Villanova seems like such an obvious oversight, though. (Especially when so many are in there based on having a graphic within a circle only…)
I really, really don’t get the love for the Cooperalls. They look like hockey slacks – basically the equivalent of pajama baseball pants or, to a lesser extent, stripeless football pants/solid socks that give off the ballet tights effect. One of the great things about the traditional breezers/socks look in hockey is how it balances out the uni so well, with the socks usually complementing the jersey color. The Cooperall look makes it very bottom heavy. And hockey is one of the last places to find beautiful striped hosiery!
I would hate to wear cooperalls in hockey games, it is like wearing long pants playing basketball. But then again, I cannot even skate so this is an irrelevant opinion of me.
IIRC, another issue with the Cooperalls was being raised by the officials, particularly linesmen. If both teams were wearing the same colour Cooperalls – let’s say a Bruins-Flyers game, where both teams would be wearing black Cooperalls – it was becoming much more difficult for the linemen to tell the players apart when calling offside at the blue lines. Apparently even different coloured stripes on the Cooperalls wouldn’t be enough, as these could be obscured. The contrasting colour socks (usually light for visitors, dark for home) make it much easier for the linesmen.
Of course, if teams had light and dark Cooperalls, this could be avoided. But given how rarely we see teams wearing white pants, due to the stigma that seems to go with white pants, this seems unlikely. Besides, socks are likely cheaper than Cooperalls!