Ice Hockey Locker Rooms: The Stink in the Rink
Nothing smells like ice hockey locker rooms. A musky blend described as "85 percent bacteria, 15 percent evil," by Cornell University hockey player Locke Jillson in a Syracuse.com article, the odor is caused by perspiration and body oils soaked into layers of heavy gear. Unlike football, soccer, and other outdoor sports, there's no grass or dirt smells to temper the odor, and because it's cold in an ice rink, the gear never really dries out.
While hockey players, parents, and spouses trade tips on how to deal with the stench, rink owners and managers face a different problem. Malodorous gear thrown on the floor transfers potentially dangerous bacteria along with the funk. "In the average set of hockey equipment, there's over a million living organisms, any one of which can cause you serious harm," said Steve Silver, founder of equipment sanitizing company SaniSport, in an article for USA Hockey Magazine.
Then there're the skates. Often the smelliest gear of all, especially for players who do not wear socks—a practice popularized by NHL great Bobby Orr—skates also have blades that are sharp enough to tear up a laminate floor. A concrete floor would hold up better, but presents a slip-and-fall hazard. That's why most ice hockey locker rooms are floored with rubber. The material can handle heavy skate traffic, keep patrons from falling, and (if properly maintained) can even help with the smell.
The Material: Tiles vs. Rolls
Rubber flooring comes in two different forms—interlocking tiles and rolls—and both have their advantages. Interlocking tiles, which look like square puzzle pieces, fit together easily and can be installed without tape or adhesive. Because of this, they can easily be picked up and reused. Their tight seams make the floor look like one continuous surface and eliminate any tripping hazards. While these tiles can be used in commercial settings, they are very well suited to home gyms and play rooms.
Rolls are less expensive than interlocking tiles, making them a better choice for large commercial areas like ice hockey locker rooms. However, they require an adhesive and need a professional to install them, which adds to the expense. Both tiles and rolls come in a variety of colors and can even be customized with team and school colors and logos.
The Clean: Daily and Weekly
Once installed, a rubber floor is fairly easy to maintain. While a sealer can be used on rubber, it is not needed, nor is it recommended for heavy-use floors. Instead, manufacturers suggest a daily regime of sweeping and/or vacuuming to remove loose dirt and debris. Strategically placed walk-off mats will help trap dirt before it has a chance to scratch the floor.
You should clean the floors weekly or more to remove stains. Start with a thorough vacuuming, scrape up any gum with a plastic scraper, then use a dispense-and-vac to wash and dry the floors. This will prevent your floors from getting too wet, which can cause damage. To protect your floors, you also want to avoid using a cleaner that is acidic or acetone-based, or contains turpentine. Though that distinctive hockey bag smell may never full go away, you can ensure that your locker room floors are clean and free of bacteria.
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Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.