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The Smell of Success

Despite being "awful" smelling salts are part of the daily routine for most of the Islanders

by Cory Wright WrightsWay /

It stings the nostrils. 

But that's kind of the point of smelling salts though, which are fixtures around the NHL and on the Islanders' bench.

Essentially, they're capsules of ammonia, and smelling them triggers an inhalation reflex. The smell? Overpowering. A whiff is enough to revive an unconscious person, so if you're already awake and in the throes of an NHL game, it's just an extra oomph before the start of a period. 

"It just wakes you up," Johnny Boychuk said. "Even though you're awake, it makes you (*snaps fingers*) wake up instantly."

Boychuk breaks one before the start of every period, so it's firmly a part of his gameday routine, even if he concedes they smell "brutal." 

"Me and [Ryan Pulock usually share one," Boychuk said. "I'll give [Nick Leddy] a couple of sniffs here and there."

Smelling salts are fairly common throughout the NHL. They make for some of the most gifable material, as players involuntarily react with all sorts of faces after cracking one. There's blustery headshaking, or wide, deer-in-the-headlights type shock. 

Anthony Beauvillier has adopted smelling salts into his gameday routine as well, usually as a third-period refresh. While Boychuk may look like he enjoys it, Beauvillier said he hasn't grown accustomed to the powerful odor.

"They're awful," Beauvillier said. "I don't like [the smell], you still feel the same way, but it's part of the routine now I guess."

Beauvillier's routine may or may not also include the occasional slap in the face from Leo Komarov, but to each their own.

Matt Martin, whose smelling salt gif with Mitch Marner went viral a couple years back, agreed that it's just part of the routine. Martin cracks one before every game and occasionally between periods. He's been doing them since he entered the league, but even he's not fully immune to the smell. 

"Sometimes they sting you. You might be a little congested, sniff hard and it breaks through and it gets almost stuck in your nostrils and throat," Martin said. "I wouldn't say it smells great, but we do it anyway."

Martin isn't totally sure if it does anything, but it's firmly embedded in his routine, something he picked up from vets early in his career. Martin said James van Riemsdyk tried to get him to switch to lavender oils in Toronto, but hockey players are creatues of habit. 

"Once you see other guys doing it, you want to be one of the cool guys, so you put your hand up and get one," Martin said. "We're so routine based that guys do the same thing on game days, 80% of guys are consistent with what they do prior to a game. It's been part of my routine ever since."

Pulock is relatively new to the smelling salt game compared to Martin, folding them into his gameday routine last season. He now splits one with Boychuk on the bench. He gets the last word. 

"They're strong and they make your eyes water," Pulock said. "It doesn't really smell good and I don't know if it actually works, but it's just one of those things."

Instagram from @ny_islanders: Some of the most GIFable moments in the league?? 🧂Smelling salts!🧂We see NHLers use them all the time and their reactions are priceless. 😂Click the link in our bio to read "The Smell of Succes

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