Posts Tagged ‘smell’

That olde-tyme hockey smell

October 26th, 2011 Comments off

If I didn’t have a strategy for dealing with the smell of my hockey gear on this trip, it would eat me alive.

Hockey gear, hockey gear, why do you smell so?

Not like raindrops and lolipops but like death and skid row.

— Me, trying to be poetic

The smell of hockey is familiar to anyone who has spent time in a rink or with a player.  It’s a very distinctive smell, one totally unlike normal body odor and only vaguely similar to those stenches associated with other sports.  The combination of ice, sweat, and bulky pads seems to provide an ideal reproduction environment for some hockey-specific cocktail of microorganisms.

The smell of a hockey bag or locker room is as much a part of the game as sticks and pucks. Even though the odor is synonymous with the game, it’s pretty tough to describe to those unfamiliar with its aromatic nuances.

— Chris Peters, “Sink the Stink

The details of the smell vary from person to person and from year to year.  Sometimes, it conjures thoughts of aged cheese.  Other times, the chewy aroma of bread fills the air.  Still, despite the minor variances on the olfactory theme, the dominant underlying notes remain clear: hockey smells like hockey.

The odor is not necessarily repugnant.  To hockey players, it brings to mind the thrill of the ice.  To hockey parents, thoughts of their kids and their bygone youth.  To fans, great games won or lost by the home team.

When I smell hockey, it means that fun is near.  The smell of hockey means that I am about to either observe or participate in the greatest game on earth.

I admit it, my goalie gear smells a bit.  Even thought the smell can have some appeal in certain contexts, I want to be able to escape it, too.  There’s no way I’d be able to tolerate the hundreds of hours spent driving on this trip if I were forced to smell my pads the entire time.  Fortunately, I’ve worked out a three-part solution:

1. Segregation: I do not transport my gear in Sam‘s cargo area.  Instead, I use a cargo box to physically separate my equipment from the air I breathe in the car.

It’s not your typical roof-mount cargo box.  Instead, it’s a Thule Transporter box that mounts to any Class II or Class III receiver hitch.  You can see my review for more details, but the gist is that by being hitch-mounted, it’s easy to access my gear, my gas mileage isn’t affected, and I don’t have to worry about driving under low-hanging beams.

The Thule 665C hitch-mount cargo box holds all of my goalie gear, but the fit is like a glove.

2. Chemicals: Febreze is a wonderful thing.  I keep a bottle in my gear bag.

3. Drying: I always set my gear out to dry after games.  Not only does that help to reduce the smell, it also frees me from having to don cold, wet pads at the next ice time.  At home, I had a drying rack for my gear.  On the road, I’ve had to improvise.

The best place I’ve dried my gear on the trip was at my dad’s house in Phoenix.  There, I set my gear on the balcony, and the 10% humidity coupled with the 110-degree air temperature left my pads bone-dry in about 5 seconds.

In many other cases, I’ve had to do the airing-out indoors.  Apologies to my friends and family who have dealt with that.  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 too.

In hotel rooms, I set out my gear wherever there’s a chance of good airflow.  If the windows open, I open them.  If the bathroom has an exhaust fan, I turn it on.  I hang some items in the closet area, and I drape others over the shower curtain rod.  If a washer and dryer are handy, I’ll run my hockey undergarments through the cycle.

Perhaps one day they’ll invent hockey equipment that doesn’t smell, but in the meantime, my strategy of technology and discipline seems to be good enough to keep the trip going.

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