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Hockey’s Affair with Smelling Salts

There is an easy tell at an NHL game that the game is about to begin, and that is the national anthem sounding off. Once this happens players are getting prepared on the sideline for what is moments away from happening. This act of getting ready is more and more commonly being accompanied with a crack, sniff, and a wince. For those who don’t know what I am referring to, let me explain.

This ritual being described is the act of players (and sometimes staff) using smelling salts to get their head in the game. Smelling salts are everywhere in the NHL and they have become an integral part of the pregame routine for countless players. These are not small time names either, even Alex Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky, arguably two of the greatest players of all time, have been seen frequently on the sideline using salts. Also the video of Tyler Seguin dropping his used salt into a fan’s beer has gone digitally viral. 



Ammonia salts are looked at as sort of a nasal alarm clock by NHL players, letting the rest of the body know the puck is about to drop. Kyle Palmieri, a winger and a captain of the New Jersey Devils says, “I love them, It just wakes you up. It’s almost like a cerebral way of saying ‘Hey, it’s game time now’.” 

Whatever the players’ reasoning is for using the salts, one thing seems to hold true, smelling salts make a significant difference enough for the players that the trend is running rampant throughout not just the NHL, but every major sports platform. There are arguments out there saying that there is no performance benefit from using ammonia salts but with that I say, the proof is in the pudding. Smelling salts have taken the sports world by storm and by the looks of it they are not going anywhere. 

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