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WHAT DIED!?

If you walk into your player's room and have to ask that question, then first check under the bed for last week's meatloaf.  If that's already been devoured by the dust bunnies then you may want to get a gas mask and venture towards the hockey bag.  That stench is mildew, bacteria, enzymes and dead skin stewing in natural and synthetic fibers.  You'd likely gag at the list of nasty critters that are colonizing the hockey bag. 

IS IT HARMFUL?

A small percentage of players will experience rather nasty skin irritations from contact with their gear.  It could be as simple as an allergic reaction all the way to a full blown infection.  There are cases of STAPH infection because of hockey gear, even relatively clean gear.  That's an important reason to wear undergarments under pads.  So Yes, not only is it really foul, it can be harmful.

HOW DO I TURN IT OFF?

It's not practical to wash the gear after every use, infact doing so will shorten the pads' effective life span, by breaking them down.  The most effective control is to allow the pads to dry out completely after use.  If you store them even a little damp for even a little while, then you aren't controlling anything.  There are many commercially available gear deoderizers.  Most of them work to different degrees.  All of them suggest that the gear be allowed to dry completely after application of the product.  Helmets should be rinsed before drying.  A shower head for a few seconds will do very well.  Cups and supporters can be washed in with the whites with bleach.  Washing gear in a Front Loading washer will be better than a top loader... we are talking about hockey gear though and it is made to take a beating so don't think that a trip to the coin-op laundry is the only way to wash the gear. 

ANY OTHER REMEDIES?

The gear bag deoderizers will help to some degree, the commercial deoderizers will also work to some degree, but all that will end up costing quite a bit of money over the course of a season.  You could wash the gear in a gentle cycle (wouldn't want the pads to get roughed up or anything) with detergent and a capfull of pinesol about once a month.  In between washes you could spray the gear down with products like Febreeze.  Before drenching your players' gear in some flowery stuff, please check to make sure that your player won't experience a bad reaction to the flowery stuff.  Lysol is know to cause reactions with many players, and it doesn't improve the "hockey bag stench", it just changes it into something worse. 

Here's a home solution that works for many.  The recipe has evolved over many years with new products coming out but the principle ingredients remain the same.  A very dilute bleach water solution in a spray bottle.  That's it.  You could use Spring Fresh Scented Bleach and you could use Evian Bottled water if you like, but they aren't necessary.  If you can smell the chlorine on the gear then you didn't dilute it enough.  Don't apply it to wet gear, apply it to dry gear just before you put it away.  Don't drench the pads, simply spray a light mist on the pads and allow them to dry.  Don't forget to spray the inside of the bag.  If your player uses a polycarbonate visor on her helmet, then you shouldn't get the bleach solution on the visor. 

Drying gear in the sun is probably the best method to kill the "cooties" and get rid of some of the smell.  Even if the sun isn't practical.... fully drying the gear will help out a great deal.  It will dry out completely between practices and games so long as you hang it or lay it out soon after practice. 

 
 
    
Skates

BREAKING THEM IN

Skates are the most important article of gear a player has.  If they don't fit then replace them.  There's nothing more harmful to a players skating progress than skates that don't fit properly or comfortably. 

Very few skates are comfy right out of the box, they need to break-in to the players foot.  Many new skates offer heat molding technology that significantly reduces the break-in.  If your player isn't fortunate enough to have those then a proper break-in will ensure many hours of enjoyable ice time.  New skates usually cause some blistering, and some foot discomfort, but if it lasts more than a few ice sessions, then you need to re-evaluate the fit of the skate.

There are tons of "Short Cuts" that can reduce the break-in period.  Some of them include a near scalding hot tub of water, baseball glove softeners, home ovens and even hair dryers.  None are factory recommended and all will void any manufacturers material defect warranty. 

The best way to break them in is to simply wear them.  Be sure to wear your skate guards as well.  Wear them watching TV, doing homework or just kicking back with the family.  It is usually a really good idea to wear the skates around the house and get them most of the way broke in before skating on them.  That way, if they truly aren't a good fit then the retailer won't have much problem with exchanging them or taking them back.  If your retailer won't take them back, you've skated in them, or you really like them because they are cool, then you can have them fit for you.  Many rinks offer skate fitting services like boot stretching, custom insoles, foam inserts and boot baking (let the pros do this in specially designed ovens), they'll usually guarantee their work. 

Getting hand-me down skates is very often less painful than getting new skates, so don't balk at your older brother's old skates, he's already gone through the pain for you.  However, another player's skating style and habits are also molded into the skate along with the shape of their foot and may not give the proper support when and where it is needed.  If you aren't saving a significant amount of money with the used skate, then it likely isn't worth it at all.  When in doubt be sure to ask someone to evaluate the fit and the player's skating mechanics. 

BLADE CARE

Here's a very important subject.  Blades should be kept sharp for proper skating, dull or nicked skates can cause injuries because of unexpected falls and collisions.  Your player shouldn't be surprised by anything on the ice... we really need to build confidence on skates and any surprises will set us back a great deal.  Young players tend to be rather abusive and negligent with their skates so you'll need to check their condition everytime you take them off.  Many people recommend that skates be sharpened every 10-15 hours of skating time.  That depends on a lot of things such as how far they walked in the paved parking lot before practice or how many times they kicked the steel supports holding the dasher boards together.  It also depends on the quality of ice, something that we don't have much control over.  Since Los Alamos has an outdoor rink the ice is typically very dirty compared to indoor rinks.  Dirty ice will dull skate blades very quickly.  If you run your finger nail across the blade your should be able to shave up a little of your nail, if not then they will likely need sharpening.  Don't run your fingers along the blade, as a sharp blade can cut quite easily, instead run your thumb and index finger along each side of the blade to feel for nicks. 

Skate Guards are just a plain great idea.  Most kids hate them because they forget to take them off before stepping onto the ice, but they'll learn after a few spills to remember them.  These guards are used for protecting the blades while walking and not for storage.

Not all skate blades are made of stainless steel.  Infact most youth skate blades are made of carbon steel.  That requires you to dry them thoroughly before putting them in the hockey bag.  A wash cloth, hand towel or a chamois are all excellent and necessary accesories to your hockey bag.  Terry cloth skate blade booties are great for storing the skates in.  Be aware that even though you dry off the water and slush after a practice or game, the blades are still cold and water will continue to condense on the blades until they are warmed up.  It's not a good idea to trap in the condensation.