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Guest Blogger Series: Gear Tips While On A Long Break

by Brad Martin


Brad is the current manager of the pro shop at Oakland Ice Center, a Sharks Ice facility. He has 15+ years of pro shop experience and is a member of the equipment management team of the San Jose Barracuda, Sharks AHL affiliate.

 

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these unique times. We are all forced to stay off the ice right now, for most that means our gear is sitting idle, longing for us strap it on and pour our sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids all over it like gravy at Thanksgiving. However, one day we will return to action and when that day comes, you’ll want your gear ready for battle.

In this article I divulge into the gear care tips and tricks of the trade. Follow these tips to take care of your gear so your gear can take care of you. Some care practices are slightly different when storing your gear for long periods but overall, these tips should be performed regularly as good habits to protect your investment.

Hopefully, everyone did so, but if you did not fully air dry your gear prior to putting it away then please go open your bag and check for dead rodents, then fully air dry your gear.

The Stick

Take all the tape off your blade, which hopefully you have done already. If not you’ll probably need to put in a little extra effort to get all the residue off that twig since it’s been sitting for a few weeks now - NEVER good! Once you take all the tape off the blade, if there still happens to be some tape residue on there, just take some goo gone and a rag and get to rubbing (rubbing alcohol of 60% concentration or higher will work too). You can take all the tape off the handle as well, but most likely won’t need goo gone for that part. Typically, the tape stays on the blade material more than the shaft itself, but you still may need to (depending on the shaft and type of tape).


After you are done removing the tape, place your stick standing up or lying flat in a safe place, without additional weight (like a hockey bag) on top of it. Over time weight placed on top of the stick can warp the shaft and alter the flex points of the stick.

That is all it takes. Then just make sure you have a second stick that you can tear up while doing off ice stick handling.

Protective Equipment

The first step is to get the grime off. Your body has plenty of bacterial and fungal species to share and your gear is a great home for them. Take your shin pads, pants, gloves, shoulders, and elbows and give those a toss in the washing machine.



Use regular laundry soap and run on a LOW spin cycle. To dry the pads after washing, set them outside for a few hours and let air dry. After they are fully dry, place one dryer sheet in each glove. That will help absorb moisture and keep your gloves smelling fresh. I always like to keep dryer sheets in my gloves (I take them out when I’m playing though). I replace the old dryer sheet with a new one about once a month. I also do the same with each skate. No need to have your skates stink. (You’re welcome for that ;)).

Game Apparel: Jersey(s), socks, skate socks, base layers, jocks/jills, shower towels and any kind of laundry you use

Grab all your game apparel and toss it all in the washer. Run regularly with your normal detergent and warm water. Make sure that you turn your jerseys inside out before washing! When the wash is done, air dry jerseys, and machine dry everything else on low heat.

Game Apparel To Wash

Final pieces: Skates and Helmet

These are tough, they are the most important and tough to care for, but here are some tips to do regularly to help keep them in the best shape and get the most out of your gear.

You do not need to do much for the brain bucket regarding cleaning, just give the inside foams a rub with some disinfectant wipes.

After giving it a wipe down, perform a good inspection of the helmet to be sure that screws are not missing or loose, all the foam pads are intact and none of the protective plastic is cracked. If screws are loose, use the correct screwdriver type and size (most are #2 Philips) to tighten them. Be careful not to over tighten the screws which can strip the screw or damage the integrity of the helmet.

Check the chin strap material, female clip, and male button, they should be free of corrosion and intact. If not, they should be replaced. The chin strap is attached to rubber hangers that sit below the ear opening (or earpiece for youth helmets).

Youth Players Helmet With Ear Guards
Chin Strap & Hangers

These hangers do not need to be replaced often but if yours are damaged, you will want to get new ones. The ear openings of most helmets come with a plastic piece that protects the ear (required in most youth leagues). Check to be sure the ear protection is not coming loose. Some are glued and others attach directly to the helmet.




If you have a cage, inspect the metal to be sure it is not corroded. Cages are attached to the helmet by two metal or plastic clips to two screws at the front of the helmet. Inspect the metal or plastic clips, if they are cracked, corroded, or damaged then be sure to replace them before you hit the ice again. Look at the cage straps as well, inspect the plastic clips on the cage straps. If they are broken, they can easily be purchased and replaced in the pro shop. Finally, check the chin pad on the inside of the cage, make sure it is clean and in good condition. If you have a full visor, then perform the same inspection as the cage but instead of checking the cage metal, inspect the visor material. Make sure that the visor does not have deep cracks or scratches that can impair vision. Not being able to see clearly can be hazardous in our sport. Clean the visor with visor cleaner or any ammonia free glass cleaner. If you have a half shield, then perform the same and check to be sure the proper spacers are in place where the shield is attached to the helmet. These spacers ensure that the visor is attached properly. If they are not there, the integrity of the shield is compromised due to increased pressure across the shield. This can cause it to break upon impact and damage the things we’re trying to protect.


Be sure to perform this detailed helmet check regularly!

Skates

By now, your skates are well dried out after sitting for a few weeks (hopefully). Check your laces and make sure they are not worn out or about to break anywhere. Ensure your steel is clean and dry and that you have skate guards on the skates because you should be wearing them right now! You read correctly, wear your skates at least once a week for 30-45 minutes while doing something easy like watching TV. That will help keep your foot shape in the boot by keeping the forming construction of the boot active.


This will also help you stay aware of the fit of your boot while on the break. It would not be fun showing up to the rink when it reopens, pumped for a first skate, to find that your foot will not fit into your skate anymore.


Finally, for some fun, if you have the resource and want to have some fun while doing this, then put all the gear that goes into the washer machine and put it on like normal and have some fun jumping in the pool!! DISCLAIMER: BE SURE YOU CAN STAND IN THE POOL WITH YOUR HEAD ABOVE WATER AND THAT YOU HAVE PARENT SUPERVISION IF YOU’RE A CHILD OR THAT YOU HAVE SOMEONE ELSE WITH YOU IF YOU’RE AN ADULT. It may not be easy to swim properly with it on. Canon-ball! The chlorine in the pool will act as the soap and kill bacteria without ruining any of the equipment. If you do this, please send us video! Then follow the drying advice for each item.


“If you take care of your gear, your gear will take care of you” – Brad Martin


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