Like most sports, air hockey has a very rich history of how it came into the world. You won’t be surprised to know that it was actually developed as an offshoot of ice hockey.
In 1972, Bob Lemieux, an ice hockey fan, helped with the design of the first air hockey table for Brunswick, a pool table manufacturer.
The game very rapidly increased in popularity with the help of an established company to roll out many tables across the USA.
Though air hockey very quickly became a staple of carnivals and college rec rooms, the manufacturer had higher ambitions for this new sport.
In 1974, they organized the first World Championship Tournament, which was comprised of 31 regional championships.
This even took place in New York City with a bounty of $5,000 being dangled to lure some more serious players into the event.
In addition to the $5,000, the winner would be awarded the title of “The Best Air Hockey Player in the World.”
Why Play Air Hockey?
Air hockey is truly a very exciting game that can be enjoyed by children and adults.
Since the game rules only require 7 goals to win, the game is typically fast-paced, short, and exciting.
In some cases, the puck moves so fast that it becomes nothing but a blur. The game of air hockey requires that you move and think quickly, which keeps you on your feet.
Since the game is so entertaining, you will lose track of time and forget how long you have been playing. So, why do people play air hockey?
- Air hockey doesn’t require any particular skill to play, such as pool.
- Its rules are very easy to learn/master- you’ll only need a few minutes and you’ll be playing like a pro.
- It is a great way to relax after a long day or on the weekends when relaxing with friends and family.
- This game doesn’t require a whole lot of time to play, so you can play a match or two to blow off steam in the middle of your day.
- Air hockey is a great way to bond with your friends and family- and offers a break from the mundane of daily life.
Here are some of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of air hockey
You DO want to purchase an extra set of replacement pucks
While it’s true that air hockey really isn’t physically taxing, within a few games pucks usually end up lost.
In fact, you’re likely to lose 1 puck out of every 10 games you play. So, having an extra set is going to make it easier for you to keep playing.
You DO want to make sure that you’re practicing frequently
Air hockey is a social game, but there are some rewards for taking it to a much more serious level. The only way you’re more likely to win the game is to practice often.
Try playing at least 3 games with an opponent- this will help you get an understanding of the mechanics of the game.
In order to see true results, you’ll want to spend time practicing at least 3 to 4 times/week.
You will find it easier to grow as a player by constantly exposing yourself to it.
You DON’T want to play rough
Keep in mind that air hockey is a social game, first and foremost. Even professional players remain calm, cool, and collected when they are playing.
You want to avoid leaning over the table the entire match. Practicing correct posture is the best way to reduce rough play during a match.
For example, you want to find the balance between a firm and soft grip when holding the mallet.
This way, you remain alert so that you can deflect the shots of your opponent, as well as remain calm so that you can effectively score goals.
You DON’T want to forget about cleaning the table
In order to increase the lifespan of your table, you’ll want to make sure that you’re cleaning it on a regular basis.
If you leave it unattended, it can become difficult to play on. About once every 2 weeks, take a cloth and sandpaper to keep your table smooth.
After cleaning the table, you’ll use the sandpaper on the puck as well. This will make it easier for your puck to move across the board.
If you want to ensure your puck remains in good condition, don’t hit it so hard.
Keeping your table and puck in optimal condition will enhance your experience playing the game.
All You Need to Play Air Hockey
Air hockey doesn’t require a whole lot of fancy equipment and tools. All you really need to play is:
- Air hockey table
One thing you will want to keep in mind is that air hockey tables come in a variety of types to suit different levels of play:
For the beginner air hockey player, a lightweight table is best. Adults who are new to the game and children are considered beginners.
You can get a beginner table for under $100 to help you learn the mechanics of the game. Of course, a beginner table is going to be unstable- but it’s ideal for practicing and casual games.
For players who are no longer beginners, but are not quite at the advanced level of play yet, an intermediate table is best.
This type of table has a much sturdier design and a larger playing field.
Most of the intermediate tables are more durable and less likely to cause dents, which leads to frustration in game play.
You might consider a 7’ table if you have limited space.
Finally, the more advanced air hockey player is going to get more enjoyment from playing on a full-size table or even an arcade table.
The advanced and arcade tables are much more durable- the rink walls are thick and the playing surface is smooth.
Though the advanced tables tend to be more expensive, they do provide high quality game play.
Now that you see that air hockey tables come in 3 skill levels, let’s look at some of the basic types of tables:
The most expensive table on this list is the arcade air hockey table. You will find they come with a variety of features to enhance game play.
These tables come equipped with full motors, an electronic system for scoring, and sound effects.
The main advantage of an arcade table is its extended life span.
If you are a casual player or a business that wants to add a fun game for your customers to play, consider an arcade hockey table.
Keep in mind though, if you want to play professionally, an arcade table may not be your best option.
Though a wood air hockey table is not as durable as a professional air hockey table, they do offer a traditional experience and are perfect for those who want a simple table to play quick games on.
However, the wood air hockey tables do have a few disadvantages- they can be quite expensive.
You’ll want to do your research before buying a wood hockey table to ensure that your money is well spent.
Some people like to have a table that is portable so they can take it with them when they leave their house.
A foldable table is portable, so you can take it when you go stay with friends/family, camping, or anywhere else you like to frequent.
However, you must be aware that foldable tables are really not that stable.
They are typically quite flimsy, resulting in awkward game play- which causes players to get frustrated.
However, if you must use a portable table, keep in mind that they are best for casual game play.
They are great for when you want to play air hockey but you don’t have access to electricity.
As mentioned, though it’s not really stable, the advantage is that it can be used anywhere.
As we have mentioned, air hockey is a fun game that anyone- even children- can enjoy- and it teaches your children how to deal with competition.
They learn that life is not all about them and is not always fair. Most of the time, child-size air hockey tables are approximately 4’ tall.
The mallets and pucks are lightweight, which makes it easier for children to play.
Of course, before you invest in an air hockey table for your child, you’ll want to find out what features they want.
If your child likes playing for fun, an arcade-style table would be best because of the LED lights that make the game more entertaining.
Finding an air hockey table for your children is not difficult- but you want to make sure that the one you choose fits your child’s needs/desires.
Be sure to get your child involved in the process of selecting a table for them.
Finally, if you want to get more serious about air hockey and learn to play like a professional, you’ll want to consider a professional air hockey table.
This type of table has features that can help you become a more efficient player. The only disadvantage to a professional table is the expense.
Since they are much more durable than most of the other tables, it’s common to find them priced over $1,000.
So, when you’re considering purchasing a professional table, you’ll want to make sure you budget effectively.
How to Play Air Hockey
The rules of air hockey are really quite simple, each player is given the opportunity to score by putting the puck into their opponent’s goal.
Air hockey is considered a game of reflexes, strategy, and skill.
Once you have an understanding of the mechanics and rules of the game, your opponents will have a difficult time beating you.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that air hockey is an interesting game to play.
When you are playing the game, you must remember to avoid putting lots of pressure behind the puck.
When you put too much pressure/force behind the puck, it can cause damage to your table. This makes it much more difficult for you to win.
When you are playing air hockey, you want to do it in a cool, calm, and collected way.
You must learn to calculate your opponent by observing them to get a grip on their playing style and calculating their next moves.
This way, it is much easier for you to find a way to win the game.
Enjoy the game
In addition, you want to try to have fun while playing air hockey. Though it is a competitive sport, it’s also a fun way to connect with your friends and family.
If you want to become a professional air hockey player, you should practice every day.
You might even consider purchasing a professional air hockey table so that you can become accustomed to the flat surface.
If you spend at least 30 minutes per day practicing, you’ll increase your chances of winning tournaments.
The rules of air hockey are in place to ensure that the game remains fair and balanced between opponents.
In addition, it establishes a structure so there’s a standard for who gets the puck first, how many points a player needs to win the game, and establishes a way to define fouls.
Here are a few of the basic rules that you should know before you start playing air hockey.
However, if you plan to compete in a professional air hockey tournament, you’ll want to learn more about the Official USAA Air Hockey Rules.
- Puck possession is determined by a face-off/coin toss.
- First player to score 7 points is declared the winner. Even if the electronic scoring device does not score the point, if the horizontal plane inside the goal is broken, the point counts.
- Once puck has broken the center line, player is given 7 seconds to hit it back or a foul is committed and your rival receives control of the puck.
- Topping is considered a foul. This is when you place your mallet on top of the puck. Your opponent receives possession of the puck.
- You cannot touch the puck with anything other than the mallet- or it is considered a foul and the opponent receives possession of the puck.
- If puck is headed to the goal and player stops it with anything besides mallet, it is called “goal tending” and opponent is granted possession of the puck.
- Hitting the puck when on your opponent’s side of the center line or crossing center line with your mallet is a foul and opponent is granted possession of the puck.
- If puck leaves table, the player that caused the puck to go out of play is charged with a foul and opponent gets possession of the puck.
Air Hockey Tournaments
If you are serious about the game of air hockey and you want to set up a tournament for your local community, there are some things you must keep in mind.
Here are tips for setting up your air hockey tournament:
Find Your Location
The first step is to find a location- and there are lots of factors that determine what makes a good location.
Finding one that already has a good table is always a good idea, as you won’t have to try to convince them to upgrade or purchase a table.
Finding one that already has a good table is always a good idea, as you won’t have to try to convince them to upgrade or purchase a table.
Bars are going to draw a completely different group of players than an arcade would.
The greater the popularity of a particular venue, the more people you can recruit to play.
Talk to the Establishment
Once you have chosen a location you’d like to hold the tournament at, it’s time to start talking to the owners of the establishment.
Make them aware that you’d like to find out how much local interest there is in the game of air hockey.
Typically, they are going to be pretty cooperative about drawing more regulars into their facility because that equals more business.
Ask for permission to post some flyers advertising the tournament about 2-3 weeks out.
You will want to make sure to post some flyers near the air hockey table so that they can be seen.
You might even want to put your contact info so that people can contact you for more info.
Run the Tournament
The day of the tournament, you’ll want to show up with some tournament brackets.
Then, just sit back and see how many people show up.
If you have enough people, have the tournament and start planning the next one.
If you only have a few people show up, then get their contact info and discuss planning another one in the future so that you can get more interest.
Of course, you can still have some friendly games between those that do show up, it just may not be tournament level.
Go for Weeklies
If possible, try to get a weekly/bi-weekly tournament established.
If you can succeed with this, you will be much more likely to convince the establishment to invest in another table.
It will be a win-win, you will have more people to play air hockey with and the establishment will make more money.
Best Air Hockey Table Brands
When it comes to air hockey tables, there’s definitely no shortage of options. Here are a few of the best air hockey table brands:
- Viper Vancouver
- Atomic Blazer
- Triumph Sports
- Hathaway Face-Off
- Redline Acclaim
Of course, when you are looking for an air hockey table, there are a few features that you need to keep in mind.
Each table has various features that make it different/better than the competition.
Keep this in mind when you’re shopping for a table and purchase the one that fits your needs the best.
As previously mentioned, the skill level of the players determine what type of table you are going to need.
For example, the arcade tables are great for the more advanced air hockey player.
Plus, the arcade tables come with electric fans, which make it easier for the puck to glide across the table.
If you are a beginner/intermediate player, a table with medium durability is going to be the best option.
These tables tend to be cheaper than arcade tables and work just as well. This gives you the benefit of having a fun air hockey table and helping you increase your skills.
Another important factor when purchasing an air hockey table is size. Typically, tournament level air hockey tables are 8’.
However, if you want a full-size table, you’ll want to get one that is 7’ x 10’.
Of course, if you want a table that is portable, you’ll want to consider getting a small table, ranging from 4’ to 7’ long.
This is also a great option for those who only have a small area for their air hockey table.
For the most part, air hockey tables range from around $200 to around $5,000.
While it’s true that you get what you pay for, you should not let the cost be the determining factor on the table that you choose.
Table vs. Table Top
One thing you’ll definitely want to consider is the stability of your air hockey table. This is a game where people hang over the table and apply force.
You don’t want to end up with a table that is going to fall apart in the middle of the game.
In addition, you might consider getting a table that has adjustable levelers so the table doesn’t slant.
If you play on a regular basis, you’ll want to consider getting a table air hockey board.
It’s true that professional tables are best- but they are quite expensive. However, you can get stable ground by purchasing a medium-size board.
You’ve heard the phrase ‘size doesn’t matter’- but the truth is, in air hockey the size of the puck does matter.
You want to make sure that your puck matches the game play.
A lightweight puck is good for children because they typically don’t hit it too hard. However, for more advanced play, a heavier puck is highly recommended.
This is a fast-paced game that measures your speed and skill.
It has been proven that those who play air hockey have more hand-eye coordination than most other people.
Check out this expert buyer's guide on the top rated air hockey table: