Hockey dads invent detergent to wipe stench from daughters’ hockey gear

VANCOUVER — Like camping and outhouses or flies on a dung heap, hockey gear and stink have long made a nose-plugging, knock-em-dead team.

Hockey Sudz: invented by hockey dads.

Hockey Sudz: invented by hockey dads.

VANCOUVER — Like camping and outhouses or flies on a dung heap, hockey gear and stink have long made a nose-plugging, knock-em-dead team.

Lacking an easy way to curb stench — and its travels from locker room to car to home, and back — many players and their families have held their noses and accepted the problem, armed only with self-deprecating jokes to mask awful odours.

But when two hockey dads got stuck in an SUV waiting for a Vancouver-area ferry with six young puck-shooting girls and their six foul-smelling hockey bags, they decided to mount a defence.

Instead of keeling over from spending nearly two hours waiting for the vessel that would take their daughters to their minor league hockey game, Howlett and Bill McDougall spent the next two years battling reek.

The result was Hockey Sudz.

“Anybody that’s ever played hockey knows that stench. Anybody that’s ever had a child that’s played hockey knows that stench. It is unmistakably hockey,” said Keith Howlett, from Tsawwassen, B.C.

“I think, even, there’s some nostalgia with that stench. I’ve meant some old guys my age who are like, ’I’m not washing my gear!’ But there’s a point where it’s too much.”

Trial, error, the advent of the frontload washer, and plenty of research eventually led the high school counsellor and postal worker to create the natural, soap-based product. It’s antibacterial, biodegradable and hypo-allergenic. And unlike other detergents they tried, it doesn’t break down the glue holding gear together.

Nicole Howlett, one of the earliest beneficiaries of her father’s invention, says she and her friends used to be the target of her coaches’ complaints.

“They (were) like, ’Oh, you guys are so stinky,”’ said the 12-year-old, who plays defense for the Richmond Rockets. “It’s sort of funny when they say it to other people and not me anymore.”

The business partners say freshening up gear not only makes travelling to games more pleasant, it’s a health-conscious move that can ward off infection.

Superstition abounds around sports stink, but neck guards, elbow and shin pads can be a garden for bacteria. As players sweat, salts, ammonia and urea soak from their bodies into the gear. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist conditions, emitting a spectrum of repugnant smells.

“There’s a build up of sweat and with heat and humidity you get all kinds of bacteria and fungi that grow there,” said Dr. Paul Basson, team physician for the Western Hockey Leagues’ Chilliwack Bruins and whose 13-year-old daughter also plays the sport.

“It’s not just the actual bacteria that stink, but the breakdown of the actual fibre of the equipment. As it breaks down, it releases chemicals.”

In the worst-case scenario, Basson said, athletes can get an infection called Community Acquired MRSA that manifests as sores or open wounds and in rare cases cause flesh-eating disease.

While currently only on sale at a handful of retailers in Western Canada right now, Howlett said it appears Hockey Sudz (hockeysudz.com) has made quite the splash — he’s even received emails from one user who said it saved her marriage.

And word of mouth about the straight-shooting solution has quickly passed through hockey circles, even landing in the laundry rooms of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.

The inventors are now working to find a big-box store to carry the product throughout Canada, Howlett said.

“What I’m hoping is other families just like us — that’s our goal — will basically make it a regularly used product that becomes part of the regular hockey culture.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some workers are terrified at the prospect of returning to work at Olymel, where hundreds were infected with COVID, says a worker.
Advocate file photo
Second death linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta Health confirms

A second death has been linked to the Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta… Continue reading

A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP
Health Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

A fallen Western Red cedar tree at Francis/King Regional Park in Saanich, B.C., Thursday, May 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Logging delay agreement for B.C. old-growth tree stand helps endangered spotted owls

Deal announced to hold off logging watershed for a year

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

FILE - Cameron Forte (right) and his Fraser Valley Bandits are 2-0 at the Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series after being the Saskatchewan Rattlers. (CEBL photo)
CEBL releases 14-game 2021 schedule, hopes to see fans attend games in person

Season will kick off with the Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits

FILE - Keegan Messing performs during the Men’s Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won’t be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing leads Canadian figure skating team at world championships

Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season

Nurses episode, titled “Achilles Heel,” was first aired on Global in February 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Global pulls ‘Nurses’ episode after scene with Orthodox Jews deemed anti-Semitic

TORONTO — Global TV says it has pulled an episode of Toronto-set… Continue reading

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for the return of her two French bulldogs. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Lady Gaga’s dog walker shot, French bulldogs stolen in LA

Dog walker expected to survive injuries

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano tries to help goaltender David Rittich stop a shot from Ottawa Senators right wing Drake Batherson during first-period NHL action Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Most Read