Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Goaltending Exorcism: The Washening

a word or two (EDIT: or a whole crapload, as it turns out) about the hockey experience:

a game of hockey can entertain many of our basic senses: the impressive sight of agile dekes, deft maneuvering and acrobatic saves; thrilling sounds of open-ice bodychecks, rattling glass and the hollow echoing ring of a goalpost as a puck caroms off of it, and so on...

hockey's treatment of the sense of smell, however, is not so poetic. hockey players these days wear more protective gear than any other modern athlete (the goaltender, due to his very specific job duties, wears the most out of any position on the team) and during the course of play this gear tends to absorb large quantites of perspiration; consequently, this sweat/gear relationship can, if not properly addressed, create an overpowering odor/hygiene problem.

you might be surprised to find that, despite the greater amount of gear that they must wear, goaltenders are usually not the most odor-offending persons in the locker room; this, i find, is largely attributable to the laziness of the non-goalie players.

a typical non-goalie will wear the following during a game: helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, pants, long socks, shinpads, skates, cup, and a jersey; all of these items go back after the game into the equipment bag from whence they emerged prior to the commencement of said athletic endeavors.

most players will take this bag home and at least remove the garments (socks, jersey) for washing while treating the rest of the bulkier gear with various levels of care.

for some this means airing out the items in a garage or on a balcony; these gents are the cleanest of the bunch and will very seldomly assail anyone with saturated musky odors.

others not quite so diligent will wash the garments but leave the rest of the equipment zipped up in the bag until the next time it is needed. these guys, in uniform, are surrounded by an aura of funk whose strength is determined by where they left the bag (open balcony, closed garage, closed car trunk all week during a Texas summer, etc); they'll rankle your nose in the locker room if they sit by you.

then there are the guys who favor leaving everything, washable garments included, in the closed bag until the next game....when this type of player is lurking out of sight behind my net i can track him by smell alone.

now, as for myself, i think i'm one of the cleanlier players out there; after every game i wipe down my gear with a towel and hang it up on a rack on our balcony to dry while also giving the uniform et al the standard washing machine treatment. there is one piece of of the uniform, though, that stubbornly straddles the line between a garment and bulky gear, this thing shown here: It's designed to be worn under the traditional goalie chest protector as supplemental protection to your throat and clavicle. A cut-resistant collar goes around your neck while a semicircular piece of high-density foam extends down over the clavicle to reduce the impact of shots to the upper torso. The foam, however, is not removable and so the garment is inherently unsuitable for machine washing.

This means that if you want this puppy clean, you're going to have to kick it old-school handwashing style. This also means, of course, that in the couple of years since I've owned the thing it has never, EVER been washed. (I chalk this up to laziness reinforced by my weak assumption that if I hung it out to dry outside the wind and sun would take care of things somehow), so two years of goaltending "experience" have silently accumulated in this shirt.

Well, last weekend I decided that I'd shirked my hygienic responsibilities long enough and would attempt to purify the collared shirt. By virtue of me not being a mid-1800s western settler, i lacked the washboard and lye most suited for undertaking an antiquated event such as handwashing but i did buy a medium-sized tupperware container at Target that could be used to give the shirt a good pre-soak. On the day of the cleansing, I grabbed the container, squirted in some mild dishwashing liquid, filled the thing with hot water, threw the shirt into the tub, sealed off the whole business with the tupperware lid, and sequestered the tub in the bathroom to let the soapy water do its magic.

About fifteen minutes passed before I returned to check on how my little shirt was doing. Now bear in mind, I had done no agitating of the shirt in the soap/water mixture, no physical labor of the cleaning variety, just let it soak. I expected to find the shirt thoroughly drenched and primed to be scrubbed but good; what I did not expect to find was that the shirt had released pure evil into its watery surroundings. the shirt, soley by passive contact, had turned the water from soapy and clear to impenetrably black and dark, like an ecological sample lifted from some river in the jungle primeval.

somewhat amused and a little bit stunned, i removed the shirt and poured the unholy mixture down the bathtub drain; afterwards, a refill of the tupperware container with extra detergenty water along with some good ol' fashioned scrubbing rendered the shirt cleansed of its long-dormant demons, the water wrenched out of the shirt becoming a more passable color with each subsequent rinse.

not really sure how to end this post, the whole point was only to recount the tale of the dark water (in this instance not starring Jennifer Connelly). if you want a lesson out of this i guess the only plausible one would be 'never lick a goaltender's equipment, no matter how clean he thinks or tells you he keeps it'. if you for some reason actually needed that advice to be given, may god have mercy on your soul.


Anonymous said...

Have you considered that part of the problem might just have been the noncolorfastness of the black fabric dye? The first time you wash blue jeans, they'll turn the water blue.

The Social Bobcat said...

dye could be part of the reason for the murkiness but it wouldn't explain the consistency that the water took on, it seemed 'heavier' than when first it was poured into the container; i attribute this to the hundreds of hours of sweat and grime exhumed.

thank you for your submission, anonymous one!