Having a drink in the penalty box is nothing new for NHL players. Heck, there’s a whole host of Gatorade bottles to choose from in the sin bin.
New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman was spotted partaking in the refreshments Saturday, while serving a two-minute penalty for slashing against the Colorado Avalanche at the Prudential Center. His choice of beverage, however, didn’t come from one of those brightly-colored squeeze bottles.
No, Coleman took a swig of pickle juice, straight from the jar.
It may sound like a half-sour idea, but it's actually pretty kosher.
"In any type of activity, especially when you're sweating, you're losing sodium," says Brian Dessart, CSCS. "When you lose sodium, the body is prone to cramping, whether its overall cramping or in certain areas. A lot of guys are taking in pickle juice because it has a very high sodium content. So taking the pickle juice and replacing the electrolytes they're losing from sweat."
Dessart says he's seen mostly endurance athletes using the briny liquid, sometimes as a preventative measure to ward off the cramping, though the science is out as to if it actually works.
"It's one of those things where the science behind it isn't 100% accurate," says Kevin Dessart, the Director of Coaching Education for USA Cycling, a triathlete, former member of the Florida Panthers' staff and also Brian's brother. "There's really no definitive answer as to whether it's actually working or not."
According to Kevin, there's research that shows cramps could be more nerve-related than nutritional, but the mental element may play an even bigger role when it comes to pickle juice.
"Sometimes when you're coaching athletes, if it makes them feel better, then you're going to create a better athlete because they're going to feel better about what they're doing," he says. "The mental side of it is more important than the physical side."
Then there's the taste element.
"Some swear by it, some say 'it's absolutely disgusting and I'll never do it again,'" Kevin says.
It's also a matter of lifestyle as well, Brian says. For people with a more sedentary lifestyle, taking in too much sodium can raise a person's blood pressure, though it makes some sense for hard-working, continuously sweating athletes as a natural alternative to supplements. Of course, whether or not pickle juice sticks around places like a hockey bench—or penalty box—is another story entirely.
"Pickle juice wasn't thought of when I was in hockey, or if it was I didn't know about it," Kevin says. "In the last 10 years, you see athletes drinking it. There's always something, the next cure-all if you will, a lot of it, they're fads. They come in, they go out."