When I was a kid, my parent’s enrolled me in every sport and activity possible; I tried soccer, softball, dance, lacrosse, art lessons, gymnastics, golf, and tennis. For the most part, I enjoyed these activities, but it wasn’t until I laced on my first pair of hockey skates that I truly grasped what it meant to have a passion. Of course, I had numerous other passions growing up - but hockey soon superseded most of my other interests.
I was 7 and my brother Tom was 5. He played for the Waterloo Wolves and my little sister Alex and I would attend each game religiously. I loved to watch; the pace of the game, alongside the physical contact involved, was a strong enough gravitational pull. As my attendance at Tom’s games increased, my itch to step on the ice heightened alongside it. After the first few months of the season, I was certain: I wanted to play hockey. I asked my parents if I could join a league, and being the gems that they are, agreed without hesitation.
I couldn’t wait to get started and I remember the excitement I felt going to pick up my first pieces of equipment; a medley of old and used items (but mostly used...and probably from a garage sale...thanks Kate). My mom couldn’t believe that I wanted to play hockey, but not for the reason(s) you may conventionally think. When I was a child, I had a terrible tactile sensitivity. In fact, my hatred for clothes led my mom to believe that I would grow up to not even just become part of, but probably run, a nudist colony. Long story short, this somewhat illustrates why my mom couldn’t believe that I would pick a sport where you are literally buried in equipment.
After my first game, I was hooked. I loved everything about hockey; the feeling of the cold air rushing into my lungs, the chase for the puck, the quick strides gave me a sense of freedom, the adrenalin rush of scoring a goal, and most of all, the relationships I built with my teammates and coaches over the years. However, there were some aspects of the game that I disliked. That uncomfortable feeling of clothing and equipment against my skin soon caught up with me.
I remember the feeling of straight up dread while sitting in the car on my way to games knowing that I would have to put 13 or more pieces of equipment on. It was a drawn-out process and overall just really uncomfortable; to make matters even worse, I would continuously get hurt on the ice, despite the fact that I was essentially wearing a psuedo “protective” suit. Like what the hell? The worst was the dirty players that would slash me at the back of the legs (#neverforget) or flying pucks that would land in literally the ONE SPOT that I didn’t have protection. Needless to say, bruises accumulated and my patience slowly wore thin. However, despite the pain and slight aggravation encompassing the sport, I still loved it.
I played house league for the first few years then moved up to representative hockey C level, then to B, then A/AA for several years into my University days. Although I was competitive, I was never the best player. I looked up to elite athletes, but drew huge inspiration from Cassie Campbell; she embodied everything that I wanted to be in the hockey realm. Unfortunately for me, I did not possess the necessary talent and skills to bring myself to that level; all that wasted money on power skating camps and expensive one-on-one skills development training programs sure as hell didn’t make me Cassie Campbell (sorry mom). However, as I got older, the politics in rep hockey became so severe that feelings of anxiety would constantly be reproduced every tryout season. I remember that the coaches would recycle the same cruel ritual of lining the players up outside the change room after tryouts every year; we would have to wait to hear our fate about whether or not we made the team. Although the process is meant to be discrete, it’s kind of obvious that Barbara isn’t making the team when she leaves the room wailing hysterically, but trying to shun her face from her teammates’ view. You’re not fooling anyone, Barb, we all know you’re playing house league this year.
Despite all the melancholy and disappointment encompassing tryout season, I knew that I did have something a lot of players didn’t have: work ethic. I worked hard and I was coachable; my hilarious nickname ‘bulldog’ developed later on in my hockey career from my persistence digging in the boards. I didn’t know it then, but that persistence and passion for the game would translate and serve me later in life.
After I graduated high school, I made the decision to accept a position on the Laurier Varsity rugby team that was offered to me instead of trying out for the women’s hockey team, which I thought I had little chance of making. I still played competitive hockey, but my dream of becoming the next Cassie Campbell had crumbled, but to my surprise, I was actually okay with that. My mentality shifted to just letting myself enjoy the game and the girls on my team without the pressure of having to be amazing.
Fast forward to my last year of University; I was enrolled in Laurier’s business program and decided to specialize in marketing. At a whim, I took an entrepreneur class called New Venture Creation. The premise of the class was to develop ideas for a business in team’s of 1 or 2, pitch the idea to the class, then vote for the top 4-5 ideas. For the remainder of the course, teams would form around the idea and develop a comprehensive business plan that would be submitted at the end of term.
I vividly remember sitting back in the second row, and thinking through ways to come up with business ideas. The key was to either solve a problem you were passionate about, or find a way to reconceptualize and revolutionize a routine that you were accustomed to performing. My first terrible idea was a machine that would fold your laundry for you – something I despised because I’m lazy, and proud. My sister is too – you can tell by stepping into her bedroom and taking on the challenge of trying to find a space on the floor that isn’t already occupied by a piece of clothing. I ditched the idea pretty quickly, as developing a business plan in the laundry market is...well...somewhat underwhelming (sorry Tide, but it’s true).
After my mind flipped through all the things I hated, I switched focus to things that I loved, and sought out minor improvements for same. Hockey was my obvious choice. That’s when I came up with an idea for a base layer pant that would help streamline the process of getting dressed while protecting areas left exposed. I frantically searched Google for any type of product and found nothing. Later that evening I called my mom and told her about the idea I had – she said it was genius; so obviously if your mom (who knows nothing about business) likes it, then it must be a good idea (I’m just kidding of course – never ask only your parents to validate your idea). I sketched it out on a piece of paper and called it “Synthetic Pro” which literally made no sense and was stupid, but thought it sounded badass at the time. I was wrong.
I had no friends in the class, so I decided to pitch this idea solo. To my surprise and amazement, my idea had the most votes out of any others in the class and several classmates approached me to join my team. I felt SooooOo popular. As we developed the business plan and flushed out ideas, my interest in seriously pursuing this idea after graduation became stronger. I decided to follow through with my plan, and as such, an idea (with an original terrible name) materialized into Oneiric.
The idea I had then was much different then what it is now. I paid a friend in the currency of an iPod Nano to sew together my first prototype (God bless her). Which then went through over 80 reiterations as I continued to get feedback from real potential customers and of course, trying it out in my own games.
The process was anything but easy and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come with our base layers. Oneiric was born out of a passion for hockey and improving the game for players and goalies; something I care deeply about. Every component of our base layers are well thought out and designed with the hockey player in mind. We’re excited to continue developing innovative products to make the game safer and more enjoyable for all.