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Sink the Stink

By Jane Costello, Touchpoint Media, 02/04/13, 4:00PM CST


It takes Lenny Gorsky less time to deodorize skunk spray than it does to air out his family’s hockey gear.  

As the owner of a wildlife control company, Gorsky knows how to tackle overwhelming odors.

“I've had skunks spray inside homes and in an hour, I'll have that skunk removed and the smell gone,” he says. In his free time, Gorsky is a hockey coach and the father of four young players.

“Getting the smell out of hockey gear takes longer,” he says.  

Gorsky starts by putting the family’s hockey gloves on a shoe dryer overnight, and then hangs the rest of the gear on the goal net in their driveway. In winter, uniforms and pads hang in a sunny window or down in his basement in front of an industrial size fan. He uses hunting soap to wash the gear out in the bathtub with warm water, dumps it out and then finishes with a cold-water rinse.

“From what I’ve seen, gear that is never washed falls apart much sooner than gear that’s taken care of,” he says.

The smell of hockey gear is both noxious and nostalgic: the aroma of pads bathed in a cold sweat conjures up fond memories for those who have played the game, but smelly equipment gone unchecked can repulse even the most dedicated of players. Some players remain deathly afraid of washing their gear, but most acknowledge that drying it out after every game is key to keeping that certain smell from turning stomach-churning. 

“With great padding comes great responsibility,” jokes Jeff Keacher, an engineer, who recently fulfilled a lifelong goal by playing hockey in all 50 states and each Canadian province.

When Keacher mapped out the 30,000-mile trip he would make in his station wagon, he made a special point not to share any of his passenger air with his goalie equipment. Instead, Keacher bought a transporter box and stowed his gear on the back of his car so he wouldn’t have to deal with his smelly pads. He made a point of drying out his gear after every game, making good use of hotel exhaust fans, balconies, open windows and shower curtain rods.

“As for the various motel rooms that I’ve left smelling like ice arena dressing rooms, well, as a good Minnesotan, I feel bad about that,” he admits.

Anti-odor and disinfectant sprays have long been hockey bag staples, but it’s a challenge to find the right product that can vanquish the army of microbes left behind after three periods or a double overtime. As a result, hockey players have developed myriad strategies and remedies for dealing with the stench.

Those whose gloves started to reek have turned to cedar chips, dryer softener sheets, baby wipes, powder and perfume. Some put their equipment in the freezer. Others throw it in the dishwasher. Front load washing machines are preferred, but bathtubs work just as well. Others just leave it to the professionals and pay to have their gear cleaned at the end of the season.

And while there are still players who live in fear of washing their gear, one goalie decided to try the total immersion theory after returning home from the rink on a hot and muggy summer day. 

“I proceeded to dress in all my smelly equipment (minus gloves, skates and pads) and, with girlfriend screaming, I jumped into the swimming pool,” says Matt Bernstein, a microbiologist.

He floated upright on his “surprisingly buoyant” equipment, for about 10 minutes, rolled out of the pool and hung his equipment out to dry.

“For the first time ever, I witnessed only perfectly clear, clean water dripped from my stuff,” Bernstein says. “After a day, it was all perfectly dry and perfectly odor free.”

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