Friday, November 15, 2013


Dehockefication: [dee•hok•i•fi•kay•shun] verb, The act of washing sports equipment in the hope of making them smell slightly less like fermented squirrel urine.

I've created some noxious aromas in my day, many of which I unashamedly claim. As others scatter for fresh air, I proudly breathe in deep the fruits of my labor, as so many others have done before.

Certain smells, however, no matter how noble or rewarding the events leading to their creation, are little more than caustic attacks on the senses -- affronts to sensible beings with functional olfactory organs.

Dance shoes are such an affront. While Our Daughter's dance bag, and all its contents, develops an unholy funk by the time each dance season ends, the pointe shoes are the most egregious offenders. When they first arrive, pristine and pink in their pretty little boxes, you think only of how dazzlingly graceful your child will appear as she pliƩs and pirouettes from one side of the stage to the other during her fifty-seventh performance of Swan Lake.

But when you dig through her things the next morning to find the dirty leotard she forgot to put in the laundry, you find yourself wondering how big was the animal that snuck into her closet during the night and crapped in her bag. Sifting through the carnage you find the source of the stink. For as raucously virulent a stench as those two shoes have rendered, you might as well have thrown a couple of wet skunks in the bag and shaken it violently for an hour or two. You wonder what could possibly smell worse.

You stop wondering once the boys are old enough to play hockey. No other mephitic monstrosity I have ever had the misfortune to experience has come close to the wafting aroma of an open hockey bag, save for one.

Ages ago, I worked at a public library after school to make a few bucks. In the dead of winter and high heat of summer, the local homeless folks would find their way to the library to take shelter from the elements. This is by no means intended as a commentary on the homeless, but those poor souls we experienced back then carried around with them an odor powerful enough to drive away the most ravenous bookworm. You knew you were within twenty feet of the aisle they were nestled into when your eyes began to water.

Now, imagine carrying that kind of potency around in the car with you twice a week. I love my sons, but there are times I've seriously considered making them walk home from the park after hockey practice. If they wouldn't have to cross two busy highways along the way, I probably would have by now.

After every practice and game, we strip them down and load their dripping gear into two big black bags. The foul, locker room odor of sports and foot fungus lingers around them, but it isn't until the beginning of the next practice or game that you realize how big a mistake it was not to burn the bag and its contents. As the zipper pulls back and the bag cracks open, a vinegary hell escapes like cursed air from a pharaoh's tomb. It's a good thing you're already on the ground to help the boys tie their skates because the stench would drop you to your knees.

And each piece of equipment smells worse than the last.

  • Skates?  Smelly. 
  • Elbow pads?  Remarkably odorous. 
  • Knee pads?  Knees can't possibly create a stink like that! 
  • Helmet?  Dear God, you put that on your head?!
  • Gloves?  I'm sorry... Did I just pass out?

Regardless of my being someone who never embraced the idea of physical exertion as something from which one might draw pleasure, I am capable of comprehending how others might. Sports done correctly build character, and a truckload of laundry. I just wish all that character didn't have to smell so bad.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler