Have questions about air hockey? We've got answers! This air hockey FAQ contains all of the information you need to know about this indoor table sport.
Let's get right to the questions...
What Is Air Hockey?
Air hockey is a popular table game that can be found in many homes and arcades across the world. The table is designed with holes that blow air up onto the surface on which facilitates smooth gliding for the puck. During the game, two players on each long side of the table try to shoot the puck into each others goal using a mallet.
The following video is a great example of the game being played at a high level:
How Does an Air Hockey Table Work?
There are three main design components of an air hockey table that make it work: the blowers, surface of the table top, and the rails.
The blowers and the surface of the table work in conjunction to make the game smooth. Holes are strategically placed on the entire surface of the table to facilitate air coming up through the blowers. Fan powered blowers force air through these holes and create a surface with minimal friction. The tables themselves must also be smooth and thus many of the high end tables are made with a durable, yet slick, laminate surface.
The rails are the most often forgot about component of a solid air hockey table. Because scoring can involve setting up shots off the rails, the rails must be designed for with the right amount of bounce and "bankability". Many of the best tables are made with dense aluminum to meet this criteria.
What Are The Rules of the Game?
Generally speaking, the rules of the game are really simple: put the puck into your opponent's goal. Almost anyone with an air hockey table in front of them will be able to pick it up right away. Most games are played to 7 with tournament matches being a series of games.
There is a larger body of more nuanced rules which govern things like coin tosses, face offs and puck possession. Because the rule set can get quite lengthy, we're better off pointing you to something more specific than this FAQ.
See Also: Pro-Style Air Hockey Rules Made Simple or Official Air Hockey Rules by the USAA
When Was It Invented?
The year 1969 marks the beginning of air hockey as we know it today. According to patent records, Phil Crossman, Bob Kenrick, and Brad Baldwin invented the table while being employed with Brunswick Billiards. Another man named Robert Lemiuex was also involved as indicated by the patent itself.
As a giant in the tale game space, Brunswick brought air hockey into all sorts of public and home spaces such as arcades and community center. By the early to mid 1970's air hockey amassed a large amount of popularity. There was even a world championship held in New York City in 1974 which was announced by popular sports broadcaster of the time, Marv Albert.
How Much Is an Air Hockey Table?
Air hockey tables can range anywhere from $25-$6000. It just depends on the type of table that you're looking for and how serious you are about playing the game. For an overview of everything available, we created this guide to buying an air hockey table.
At the extreme low end of the spectrum, you can find tables that have been designed specifically for kids. Some of these tables don't even have legs and are designed to be placed on other surfaces or to be played on the floor. Some may not even have air blowers and would be considered more like knock hockey with an air hockey set up.
See Also: Mini Air Hockey Tables for Kids
As you get to the mid-range tables you start to see tables that can be played on by kids and adults. They aren't quite full-sized and don't have the same exact feel as a high end table. These types of tables are designed to appeal to a wider audience by being accessible and affordable. They are great tables for learning the game and are fun for kids and adults, but none of them are sanctioned for tournament play. Some of the mid range tables even come with multiple games like the Fat Cat Pockey.
The high end of air hockey tables are all made by one of three companies: Brunswick, Gold Standard Games, or Valley Dynamo. These are the only three companies that actually make tables that are sanctioned for professional air hockey. Although the companies make tables smaller then professional sizes for smaller spaces, they're surfaces, blowers, rails, and overall design is still extremely high quality. If you want to play air hockey the way it's truly meant to be played, then we highly recommend a high end table.
How Big Is a Regulation Sized Air Hockey Table?
A true regulation size air hockey table measures 99 ½” L x 51 ¼”W x 31”H according to the tournament line from Gold Standard Games. The largest tables from Valley Dynamo are sized similarly, but may have slightly greater widths if you include the overhead.
Is Air Hockey a Professional Sport?
Yes! Although it doesn't have the popularity as many of the mainstream sports, air hockey is played professionally around the world.
If you want to get involved in professional air hockey check out the Air Hockey Player's Association or the United States Air Hockey Association.
What Are The Official Pucks?
Official air hockey play requires the use of pucks with the following attributes:
The puck must be 3.5 inches in diameter and 1/4 inches in height. It also must be made out of 100% Lexan plastic and yellow, florescent green, or red.
See also: AHPA Official Rules
How Much Should the Mallets Weigh?
While there's no weight "minimum" on a mallet, competitive rules dictate that it should weigh 6 oz or less. The heavier the mallet, the more force you can get behind your shots.
See also: Picking the Best Air Hockey Mallet
What's With the Gloves?
When professional players grip, the mallet is actually held with the fingers rather than the entire hand. It seems counter-intuitive, and it's likely not going to be anyone's natural grip the first time they play. To reduce some of the shock and make holding the mallet easier, some players will opt to wear gloves and/or use tape.
Learn more about mallet grips on our guide to air hockey trick shots and strategies.
What The Heck Is Air Hockey Beer Pong?
Air hockey beer pong, which also sometimes called "Alcohockey" was created by two Canadians and posted on Reddit a few years back. It's not exactly air hockey and it's not exactly beer pong. The rules aren't 100% clear, but from what we've seen, players have to defend the holes in the table rather than a goal. Just like any drinking game, the person who gets scored on has to take a drink.
The video below shows an example of how it can be played with four players.
What Do You Have Questions About?
We strive to be the number one source for everything air hockey on the internet. That said, if something is missing from the guide that you have questions about, please leave it in the comments below. We'll do our best to get it added to this FAQ.