What is an Air Hockey Table & How Does It Work?

Air hockey is a table game played by two players at the opposite ends of the table. Each player stands behind the end rail in defense of his or her goal box. Using one hand to hold the mallet, each player has to strike the plastic puck to prevent it from getting into the goal box as well as trying to score the opponent. Though it looks quite simple, you would have to employ your full concentration or risk getting knocked out. Perhaps you are now wondering how a plastic puck could move so swiftly just from a hit of a mallet.

This is entirely attributed to the design of the table. The table is made in such a way to reduce the external friction. This is achieved with the aid of air blown through numerous tiny holes on the table. Hence, the puck will be slightly afloat when kicked from one side giving it the immense speed.

A brief history of air hockey

Just like any other common sports game, air hockey has a rich history. As you can guess, it has some relations with ice hockey. This is true in the sense that its origin is linked to an ice hockey fan, Bob Lemieux. Bob aided in the design of the first air hockey table after a trio of Brunswick engineers came up with an idea of creating a table game with a frictionless surface. The project had stagnated for some years and was on the verge of failing when Bob Lemieux came to the rescue. He came up with an idea of creating an abstracted version of ice hockey. This was way back in 1972 when the first successful design was implemented. It is, however, important to note that the air table had before been patented, but for other purposes other than the game.

Later on, when the company realized that the game might appeal to the general public, several tables were manufactured and sold to the general public. This way, the game began to spread; nobody knew that one day the game would attract world wide players. In the mid-197os, the game had already covered distances and found its way to the major tournaments. In fact, as early as 1973, the Houston Air Hockey Association had already been formed. Thereafter, the number of players in Texas was growing significantly and led to the formation of the Texas Air Hockey Players Association.

With these expansions, the rules of the game were gradually defined and codified. Local tournaments transpired and in 1975, United States Air-Table Hockey Association was formed by Philip Arnold. This acted as an official sanctioning body which ensured uniform playing standards so as to attain the highest competitive quality. The previous rules that had been imposed by the Brunswick company were ruled out and new rules, majorly developed by players were put in place. Another association, AHPA (Air Hockey Players Association) was also formed in 2015. Though the two act independently, they both abide by the preset rules and regulations.

How to play

As mentioned before, the two players take their positions at the back of the end rails. Each player has two targets. First, guard your goal box and secondly, be the first to score the first seven goals. As the game begins, the one who reserves the first service has to be identified by tossing a uniform coin. The winner chooses the side to begin. Once this is done, the game begins with a hand serve. The game is on until a goal is scored or when the referee calls it off. The player who has been scored reserve the right to serve the puck for the next service.

Goals can be scored with different offensive shots. These shots can be performed in a variety of ways. It can be straight, banked, angled or even double-banked and more. The bank can be done with the aid of the side rails. This is normally done by positioning your mallet at about 8 to 14 inches from your goal box. The puck is hit in such a way that it knocks the side rail and enters the goal at a right angle. The game proceeds until any of the players score the first seven points. Each point is awarded per goal scored. He or she wins the match.

Air Hockey Table

Photo Credit: babywalkerpro.com

Rules of the game

Like any other game, there are several rules that guide the way the game is played and conducted. These rules are to be followed by any standard air hockey game. They include:

1. The First to attain seven points is the winner.

2. After every game, players have to alternate sides.

3. The player scored reserves the rights for the next serve.

4. Unless the referee had already suspended the game or that the scoring play had committed a foul, each score amounts to one point.

5. Only one mallet should be used on the playing surface. Violation leads to a foul.

6. A player can only hand serve if the puck has entered his or her goal box.

7. You can strike the puck with any part of the mallet.

8. Only a single puck should be in play for every given moment of the game.

9. A player has only seven seconds to make a shot as soon as the puck crosses the center line. This happens immediately the puck crosses the center line. A foul is given if the violation is made.

10. If the puck rests on the center line, any player can strike.

11. From the center line, a player may stand on any side of the table.

12. The puck should not touch any part of the player's body, arm, clothe or any other part as it will amount to palming" which is a foul.

13. A player may take a single time out per game which should not exceed 10 seconds.

14. The player will only take the time out if he is in the possession of the puck or when not in play.

15. When a goal is scored, the player has only 10 seconds to remove the puck from the goal box and set it in play. This rule is suspended during a timeout.

How is Air Hockey table designed?

What makes the air hockey table outstanding is its playing surface. It is designed and built with an immensely smooth surface having numerous tiny perforations. Below the surface, a fan is fitted. This fan blows upwards forcing air through the tiny openings on the surface. The air jets create an air cushion below the puck keeping it slightly afloat during the game. This reduces friction that would interfere with the movement of the puck, thus making the table an efficient surface for playing air hockey.

Sandra Gonzalez

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