When you watch a hockey game, you can usually see players and even coaches waving and sniffing something when on the benches. Weird faces also accompany the act, as it would hurt to take a sniff from it. So, what do hockey players smell?
Hockey players sniff smelling salts to increase adrenaline, boost focus and keep themselves more alert. Also, the ritual and superstition around smelling salts are big, especially in hockey and football.
That said, there are real benefits to the usage of smelling salts. In this article, you’ll find a lot of information about smelling salts but first, let’s review what smelling salts are in the first place, as regular salt won’t make you want to make weird faces.
What Are Smelling Salts?
Smelling salts, also known as ammonia inhalants, ammonia salts, and sal volatile, are inhalants made of ammonium carbonate, alcohol, and scented perfumes. Serious athletes inhale them to gain adrenaline, focus, explosive energy, and strength from the fumes’ breathing reflex it triggers.
You might wonder what inhaling smelling salts feel like. The fumes or scent is so strong that it opens your nostril airways and improves breathing, increasing your oxygen intake, which improves your performance in many ways.
Also, it gives you a little (or not so little) kick, very much like adrenaline which makes you play, lift or work harder. An adrenaline kick with more oxygen to your brain and muscles is a powerful combination.
Here are a few quotes from people who have used smelling salts.
They’re amazing for competitions! I smell it before a lift and enter a whole new world, of rage. I love it.
It’s like someone slapping you. totally wakes you up, gets you in the zone etc.
I had also tried smelling salts, although it wasn’t when I played hockey. Nonetheless, it will blow you away with how strong the fumes are, and the focus boost was something else.
See the video below what taking smelling salts looks like and imagine how it feels.
Are Smelling Salts Safe?
At this point, you might wonder whether it’s safe to inhale smelling salts made from ammonia and will wake your body up. It’s a valid question that will come into everyone’s mind when watching someone doing it.
According to WebMD, smelling salts are safe, and no negative effects have been recorded when used properly and moderately. However, overuse of smelling salts can damage your nasal passage and react poorly with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or bronchitis.
If you plan to use smelling salts, do it as you would with all things in life, in moderation. Consistent use of smelling salts that open your airways like nothing else won’t be good in the long run, so use it only when you need an extra boost.
WebMD also states that there are some uncommon side effects of smelling salts, including
- Difficulty breathing
If you notice such side effects, I won’t use smelling salts, but they are rare, especially when you use them properly.
Smelling salts have been used since the 13th century for treating head injuries such as concussions, so it isn’t a new invention. However, the adrenaline-like effect can also mask head injuries as they weren’t there, so if you gain a head injury, see a doctor immediately and don’t try to make it go away with ammonia inhalants magically.
Are Smelling Salts Legal In Hockey?
Many substances and products that will boost players’ performance and aren’t natural for us are banned in sports, including hockey. This includes steroids, doping, drugs, illegal hormones, etc. Smelling salts aren’t exactly meant for us either, so are they legal in hockey and the NHL?
Smelling salts are legal in all levels of ice hockey and are mostly used in the NHL, where most players use them for increased clarity, strength, and adrenaline boost. There are no mentions of smelling salts in the NHL rulebook where it would be banned from use.
Some people argue and wonder why smelling salts are legal as steroids, doping, and other substances aren’t. Smelling salts won’t alter one’s physical condition by making them stronger, faster, bigger, and better. They’re a little kick with no harmful side effects or health problems.
I once heard that if smelling salts weren’t legal, Gatorade shouldn’t be either. Smelling salts are legal for a reason, whereas other substances aren’t.
Why Do Hockey Players Use Smelling Salts?
Now that we have determined that smelling salts are safe and legal small pouches you wave close to your nose, let’s review why they are used in hockey in the first place.
By far, the most significant reason anybody does smelling salts is the performance benefits it offers. By smelling ammonia fumes, you get the following benefits;
- Improved breathing
- More Oxygen
- Better focus
These are great for athletes, from hockey to powerlifters to runners. It’s particularly popular among hockey and football players and powerlifters. It’s estimated that around 80 percent of NHL players use smelling salts, revealing their power.
When it comes to powerlifters, the extra kick and adrenaline will help with personal record lifts and repetitions at the end of the workout, where natural energy starts to fade.
A ritual or habit often forms when you do something long enough. Even when physical and mental benefits always accompany smelling salt, it can also be used as a ritual.
By doing a familiar act, you will feel good, and that alone can have a mental improvement on the game.
Many sports, including ice hockey, have superstitions hacked to the sport’s core. When players that use smelling salts as a ritual don’t have the pouch at their disposal, a superstition may arise where it’s believed that not using them can harm the players or even the team’s performance.
Where to Buy Smelling Salts?
Smelling salts aren’t as popular and easily found as other sports and fitness products. For this reason, you might have a hard time finding some, so below, you’ll find three great places you can find smelling salts right now.
The best place to find smelling salts is Amazon because, well, it’s amazon. You can find smelling salts for your exact needs with fast shipping, competitive pricing, and a selection like no other.
For hockey, I recommend Individua pouches that are easy and quick to use. For powerlifters, a smelling salt in a bottle is great for an easy and powerful effect.
Walmart is a close second to amazon for the same reasons. You can find a wide range of products with hundreds of reviews so you can be sure of your choice.
3. Strenght Shop
For a more selective taste, Strenght Shop USA is a great alternative, where you can find smelling salts/ammonia specifically made for strength training.
How Long Does a Bottle of Smelling Salts Last?
If you go for the bottled-smelling salts that I recommend for the gym, it’s good to know how long they will last unopened, opened, and used.
Generally, a bottle of smelling salts lasts six months unopened. During usage, a bottle can last 1 to 3 months, depending on the usage. Each time the bottle is opened, ammonia is evaporated, and the amount is reduced. Thus, the more you use, the faster it’ll run out.
To maximize the longevity of your smelling salts, you should cap the top immediately after usage and as tight as you can, so no ammonia can evaporate from the bottle.
Also, storing the bottle between 46-68°F (8-20°C) is recommended. The next best thing is to keep it away from hot temperatures.
Smelling salts are a great performance boost for ice hockey, football, powerlifting, and other activities. Remember to keep the usage in moderation, and you will enjoy a great experience with it.
Related: Why Do Hockey Players Spit?