Recently, Jonathan Altman – CEO and one of the founders of O3 Tech Solutions and O3 Sani Sport – met up with NESV’s Fran Mackin to explain some of the science and productivity behind the Sani Sport system. The Sani Sport system is the only sports equipment cleaning machine endorsed by the NHL and USA Hockey.
FM: What is Sani Sport and where did this company begin?
JA: Sani Sport was founded by Steve Silver in 2001. He noticed an untapped market within the hockey industry. His two young sons were avid hockey players, and he was constantly concerned with the level of bacteria on their hockey equipment. Steve decided to work alongside a team of engineers and chemists to design the first sports equipment cleaning machine. He went on to create an advisory board, as well, to get support and feedback from NHL equipment managers, NFL equipment managers and prominent medical professionals. Since its debut in 2001, Sani Sport has become internationally known for its ability to significantly reduce bacteria in sports equipment and other protective gear.
FM: What makes Sani Sport better than a household washing machine?
JA: Aside from the obvious inability to put your helmet and skates into a washing machine, we do not recommend using one to clean any of your equipment. There are problems with any wet washing process. It just doesn’t make much sense to add more moisture washing your equipment and then need to use heat to dry your leather gloves, your skates, and helmets. Wet washing can also loosen glues, breakdown fibers in equipment and accelerate the rust on your helmet hardware, skate rivets, eyelets and blades. Our sanitizing and deodorizing process is unique. It’s an all dry process that literally kills the bacteria and fungus by vaporizing the organisms that are living in your equipment. All your equipment, skates included, come out in the same condition as they went in, minus all the nasty stuff that causes itching, rashes, and infections. And at the same time, it eliminates the foul odors your family, friends, and teammates are always complaining about.
FM: Is it practical or even possible to buy a Sani Sport for your home?
JA: Ozone is created by converting oxygen (O2) into Ozone(O3). Being an unstable gas Ozone has a very short life span. It cannot be stored and transported like other gases and must be produced on site. The Sani Sport technology allows Ozone to be created on site for industrial use. The machines can be purchased for home use, but a machine like the one we have in use here at the village would end up costing someone over $30,000. It doesn’t really seem to make much sense for anyone to put one in the house for individual or family use.
FM: Is it used by any professional sports teams?
JA: Yes, there are 27 NHL teams, 15 NFL teams, 5 MLB teams, fire departments and various military and law enforcement agencies operating Sani Sport machines daily. It is also the only sports equipment cleaning machine endorsed by the NHL and USA Hockey.
FM: What is your role in the business?
JA: I am the CEO and one of the founders of O3 Tech Solutions and O3 Sani Sport. O3 Tech Solutions is the parent company of O3 Sani Sport. I also have 3 partners who help me handle the other aspects of our business.
FM: What were you doing before O3 Sani Sport?
JA: I graduated from Syracuse University and then continued with my studies at Boston University to earn my Master’s degree in Business. For the next 25+ years or so, until about several months ago, I worked as an Investment Advisor for several large investment banks and brokerage firms in Boston. Over the years, I managed millions and millions of dollars in stocks, bonds and other financial investments for individuals, private investors, institutions, and corporations. It was a very rewarding career, but I think deep down I was mentally ready for a change.
FM: What made you want to get involved in Sani Sport?
JA: I have been an avid hockey fan my whole life. I grew up playing hockey in Framingham, Massachusetts and was excited that my youngest son took to playing hockey. At the end of last Summer, my son developed a rash that looked like poison ivy on his body. When it didn’t go away after a few days with the usual ointments, we took him to the doctor office? After another full week of antibiotic creams and doctor appointments, a suggestion was made to clean his hockey gear. It made sense to me that this could be the culprit. I didn’t know where to take his equipment as I had never cleaned my gear in my life. I assumed it would be an easy process, but I was wrong. It ended up taking a week, was expensive, and we missed a game (my fault) because I didn’t realize the store was closed on Sundays. I decided to see if we could create a better system. After some research, my business partner and I discovered Sani Sport. After several phone conversations, we headed up to Montreal, Canada to meet with Steve Silver, the inventor of the Sani Sport machines. The trip was a success and we immediately formed a close bond. We discussed our strategy and goal to make the cleaning and sanitizing sports equipment both convenient and affordable to everyone, Not just the professionals. We believe that the only way to achieve this goal was to do all work on site at the rink and all for one monthly fee. Shortly thereafter O3 Tech Solutions and O3 Sani Sport were created.
FM: How often would you recommend a player uses the Sani Sport system?
JA: As I mentioned, our goal is to make the cleaning and sanitizing of sports equipment a convenient simple process. With that in mind, some items of equipment should be done weekly (gloves) while others can be done less often (hockey bag). Personal preference, body type and how you air out your equipment after you skate will affect the frequency of use as well.
FM: What are some tips you can give a player or parent to help keep their equipment as clean as possible between washes?
JA: We would encourage all players to air out gear as frequently as possible. Especially after playing and you get home from the rink. That is a crucial time. You really need to open up your hockey bag and take out all the equipment and if possible put it all on something like “equipment tree” or a drying rack to let air circulate through the interior spaces. Dehumidifiers and fans may also be helpful, as odor-causing bacteria thrives in a warm, moist environment.
FM: Is Sani Sport just for protective equipment? Or can it wash all types of apparel?
JA: The Sani Sport technology allows for virtually anything to be cleaned and sanitized. It can also be used to for Lacrosse and football equipment, boxing and fencing gear, cycling gear and even scuba gear. Basically, anything you wouldn’t want to put in a washing machine.
FM: How long does it take for one wash cycle through Sani Sport?
JA: 12 minutes!
FM: Does Sani Sport dry the equipment also? Or do you have to air dry it after a cycle?
JA: Our process is all dry. We do not add extra moisture to your equipment. Steve Silver, the inventor of the Sani Sport machines, recently also invented a Drymax system specifically designed to help dry sports equipment. It will not dry soaking wet gear as that would require more time and a warmer temperature than we would want to safely expose the equipment. We are excited to have the new Drymax system included in our machine at the Village.
FM: Is the equipment able to be used immediately after a wash cycle?
JA: Yes, since it is a dry process and uses zero chemicals, the equipment can be used as soon as the 12-minute sanitizing cycle is complete.
FM: Are there different levels of cleaning cycles? And how much does each cost?
JA: Yes, we are offering packages in which athletes can choose what items they wish to have cleaned and sanitized. A figure skater may just have his/her skates sanitized or 1 item and a hockey player may choose to have gloves, elbow pads, and helmet or 3 items sanitized. 1 item can cost $10-15 and 3 items $25.
FM: Is there any type of pass or membership that athletes can sign up for to use the Sani Sport consistently?
JA: Yes. Our goal is to make it convenient and affordable to have your equipment cleaned and sanitized at the rink. To achieve these goals, the O3 Sani Sport VIP Membership was created. We are now offering an industry first membership plan that allows students to pay only $30/month for weekly cleaning and adults to pay $50/month for weekly cleaning. We are also offering $15/month figure skating sanitizing plans as well.
FM: Where is it located in the rinks at the NESV?
JA: Our O3 Sani Sport service center is located just outside of the Studio Ice sheet. There are also “O3 Sani Sport” signs around the rink that will help you find us too.