Air hockey requires an air hockey table, two mallets, and a puck. A typical air hockey table consists of a large smooth playing surface, a surrounding rail to prevent the puck and mallets from leaving the table, and slots in the rail at either end of the table that serve as goals. On the ends of the table behind and below the goals, there is usually a puck return. Additionally, tables will typically have some sort of machinery that produces a cushion of air on the play surface, with the purpose of reducing friction and increasing play speed. In some tables, the machinery is eschewed in favor of a slick table surface, usually plastic, in the interest of saving money in both manufacturing and maintenance costs. Note that these tables are technically not air hockey tables since no air is involved, however, they are still generally understood to be as such due to the basic similarity of gameplay.
Air Hockey MalletCurrently, the only tables that are approved for play and sanctioned by the USAA for tournament play are 8-foot tables manufactured by Dynamo. Approved tables include the Photon, Pro-Style, older Blue Top, Brown Top, Purple Top or Black Top with unpainted rails. The HotFlash 2 and other full-size commercial tables with neon lights and/or painted rails are not approved for USAA play but are still great tables to learn to play the game on.
A mallet (sometimes called a goalie, striker or paddle) consists of a simple handle attached to a flat surface that will usually lie flush with the surface of the table. The most common mallets resemble small plastic sombreros, but other mallets are used with a shorter nub.
Air Hockey PucksAir Hockey pucks are slim discs made of a plastic material known as Lexan. Standard USAA-approved pucks are the yellow lexan, red lexan and the Dynamo green
One Common GripHere are some basic rules as defined by the USAA:
A face-off or coin toss decides which player gets the first possession of the puck.
The first person to score 7 points by shooting the puck into the opponent's goal wins the game. When the puck breaks to horizontal plane inside the goal, a point is counted, whether or not the electronic scoring device captures the score correctly.
Once the puck is on your side of the center line, you have 7 seconds to hit the puck back across the center line. If a player maintains possession of the puck for longer than 7 seconds without taking an offensive shot, a foul is committed and the opponent receives possession of the puck.
Placing your mallet on top of the puck, known as topping, is a foul. When a topping foul is committed, the opponent receieves possession of the puck.
Another Common GripDo no touch or strike the puck with any part of your body or with any object other than the mallet. If you do so, this is a foul and possession changes hands.
If the puck is on a clear path into the goal and the player stops it with anything other than the mallet, this is goaltending. When goaltending occurs, the opponent receives a free shot with no defense.
Only hit the puck when it is on your side of the centerline. If you contact the puck when it is on the opposite side of the centerline or if your mallet completely crosses the centerline during play, this is a foul and the opponent receives possession of the puck.
If the puck should leave the table, or play area, a foul is called on the player that caused the puck to go out of play and the opposing player gets possession of the puck. Generally, when a player causes the puck to leave the table with a forward motion of the mallet, even defensively (known as charging), the foul is charged on them.
Tips From the Pros
Try these tips and you'll be on your way to playing Air Hockey like a Pro!
Grip the mallet behind the knob using your fingertips, not on top of it. This will allow more wrist action and help you be able to move the mallet around the table faster.
For basic defense, keep your mallet centered about 8-10 inches out from the goal. From that point, very slight movements to the left and right will block virtually all straight shots. Pull back quickly to the corners of the goal to block the bank shots. This is known as the Triangle Defense.
Try to learn control. Gain control of the puck before you take a shot. Set up your shots like you would set up a shot in a game of pool - take your time, figure out where you want to shoot, aim and fire!
There are many ways to get around your opponent's defense. Aim for the corners of the goal. On bank shots, try to get the puck in the goal off of a one-wall bank. If you hit double or triple banks, the puck loses velocity and will be easy to block.
Remember, there is more to Air Hockey than meets the eye. To the Pros and Masters, it's like a Chess match. You have to out think your opponent and figure out innovative ways to trick their defense.
History of Air Hockey
The United States Air-Table-Hockey Association (USAA) was formed in 1978 to oversee sanctioned tournament play. Since then it has sanctioned at least one National Championship every year, crowning 11 different national champions over 27 years. It is the only recognized player organization for air hockey, and has maintained a close relationship with table manufacturers over the years.
Air Hockey is played competitively by a community of serious players around the world, and at least one world championship event is held every year. These events are sanctioned by the United States Air Hockey Association, which was formed in 1978 to oversee the official rules of the game.
Basic rules of play for air hockey:
1. The first player to accumulate seven (7) points wins the game.
2. When the puck enters and drops inside a player's goal, the player's opponent receives one point (unless play had been suspended by the referee or the offensive player had committed a foul during or prior to the shot.)
3. After each game, players will alternate tablesides.
4. The player scored upon receives possession of the puck for the next serve.
5. A player may hand serve the puck only after it has entered his goal.
6. A player may play with only one mallet on the playing surface at one time. Violation results in a foul.
7. The puck may be struck with any part of the mallet.
8. The puck cannot be "topped" by lifting the mallet and placing it on the top of the puck. This cannot be done at any time whether before a serve or after a serve during play. Violation constitutes a foul. Using the mallet to bring an airborne puck to the table or opponent's goal is not a topping violation no matter which side or edge of the puck is contacted.
9. Only one puck may be in play at a given moment.
10. A player that has possession of the puck has seven (7) seconds to execute a shot that crosses the centerline.
11. When the puck is in contact with any part of the centerline, either player may strike the puck.
12. A player may stand anywhere around the table on his/her side of the centerline. He/she may not stand past that line.
13. If any part of a player's hand, arm, body, or clothes touches the puck, "palming" will be called by the referee, which constitutes a foul.
14. Each player may take one time-out per game. The time-out may be no longer than 10 seconds.
15. A player may exercise his/her time-out only when the puck is in his/her possession or not in play.
16. A player must make a clear indication of time-out so that the referee understands the player's intention