What is Bubble Hockey? (also known as Dome Hockey)

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While most people are familiar with common game room games, there is one game in particular that often gives people pause because it is so unfamiliar. Bubble hockey, while growing in popularity, still isn’t a game that most people are familiar with, making it something unique and special.

People who love the thrill and feeling of going to see a game of ice hockey, but don’t live close to an ice rink can bring that same excitement to their home when they purchase a game of bubble hockey. 

bubble hockey shelti

Image Source From Shelti's Slapshot Video later in this article.

However, this game still raises a lot of questions, let's learn a bit more about it...

What Is Bubble Hockey?

Bubble hockey, also called Dome hockey, is a fun table game, which allows players to enjoy the speed and thrill of an ice hockey game while controlling miniature hockey players on rods. 

Bubble Hockey is kind of a hockey version of foosball. This is a fun and fast paced sport that can be enjoyed even if you are not a hockey fan.

Unlike foosball, air hockey, and other game tables, bubble hockey tables have a clear dome over the top of the table. The dome, often called bubble, is hard and virtually indestructible, which is great for when players launch the puck into the air, as it can hit the dome and fall back down onto the table. As pucks are quite small, the main purpose of the dome is to not let it fly off the table.

It’s easy to learn how to play, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to win, making it a great competitive game for any game room fan.

Understanding the history and how to play will make you much more comfortable trying out this game the next time you are lucky enough to be in an area with a table.

How Do You Play Bubble Hockey?

How to play?

Understanding how to play bubble hockey is key for anyone who wants to enjoy this game and wants to be able to participate in fun matches, as well as more serious competitions. While the rules are all very basic and should be followed as much as possible, they can vary slightly from one location to another, which means that players need to be willing to adapt to local or regional rules as necessary.

Bubble Hockey is a lot like foosball. The goal of bubble hockey is not only to try to score goals by getting the puck through the opponent’s goal, but also to prevent them from scoring in your goal. In this game, goals do not count unless the puck falls all of the way down the chute and the machine registers the goal. This means that pucks that bounce back out of the goal are considered live and play will continue.

Rules of bubble hockey

Players start the game using a coin flip to determine which side the table they will be on, and the table itself will drop a puck down the center of the table to begin a game. Each full game consists of three 90-second periods, and there is a clock on the game that will count this down to ensure fair play.

No players may tilt, lift, or shift the table to affect where the puck goes, and each player may only control three men, including their goalie, at a time. Stalling, which occurs when a player holds the puck to delay the game and cause the clock to continue to countdown is punishable by a goal penalty.

Additionally, timeouts are taken when the puck is stranded in a dead area on the game. Players can only spin their men for one second per time, but if they continue to spin excessively then they can be warned or disqualified.

Finally, a tournament game ends if a team is ahead by two or more points at the end of the regulation time. Ties or losses by only one goal result in more play until one team is winning by two goals. During non-tournament games, however, players can win by a single goal or win during sudden death.

Is Dome Hockey Fun?

Bubble hockey, though a little difficult to learn how to play at first, is one of the most fun table games that you can play. Because it is designed specifically to be durable and able to withstand flying pucks without any damage, bubble hockey is great for players who are looking for a game with as much fast action than foosball.

As long as players are willing to follow the rules and keep their head in the game for the best results, they will find that bubble hockey, though competitive and fast paced, is an incredibly fun game. It’s a great option for anyone looking for a game that is a little bit different than ones that they have played in the past.

Bubble Hockey machines also have features that make them more interesting than other arcade games, such as LED lights to lit up the play surface and players, an electronic scoring system to keep track of time and scores, or sound effects to make you feel like you are watching a real game.

Why are Bubble Hockey tables so expensive?

The biggest downside of bubble hockey tables is the price. Starting around $1000 and smaller than conventional air hockey tables, it is somewhat harder to believe they can be so expensive. The real reason why bubble hockey tables are expensive is that they require more attention and more details than conventional tables. These tables can't be mass-produced as the small players, the rods, the dome and all the possible customizations require a lot of human intervention.

Who invented this game?

Bubble hockey has an interesting history that actually dates back to 1932. This prototype had men who were controlled by rods and were used for both offense and defense during the game, making it very similar to today’s bubble hockey.

The bubble hockey that most people are familiar with today, however, wasn’t invented until 1982. Innovative Concepts in Entertainment, or ICE originally designed bubble hockey, and founded Chexx. Since the original game, featuring the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey team against the Russian Hockey team sold a surprising 5,000 tables in the first year and became popular both in hockey stadiums and arcades throughout the United States, it quickly became a staple for ICE.

In 1993, the Super Chexx table released, which features the popular and ubiquitous large domed table that is so familiar. Throughout the 1990’s other companies began producing their own versions of bubble hockey. It’s now possible to buy versions from companies such as Stiga, Carrom Company, and Shelti. Some of the versions available on the market today don’t have domes, but the majority of bubble hockey tables do, both for aesthetics, but also for safety.

Shelti Breakout Bubble Hockey Table, 52 x 36 x 42 1/2-Inch

Choosing the best bubble hockey game table can be a little tricky, because you need to consider a few different things. Make sure to take into consideration the quality of the table so that you can rest easy knowing that it won’t easily be damaged during play. Additionally, consider the size of the table so that you can make sure you have enough room for the game in your home. Finally, check the condition and durability of both the playfield and the dome.

All in all, the original ICE Super Chexx table is the best option on the market. It has a durable dome that is almost indestructible and won’t crack during competitive games. Additionally, the play field is incredibly smooth and high quality, ensuring that the puck can easily slide and won’t be slowed down by friction. Thanks to the durability of the table, it is made to last for years to come without needing repair or part replacement.

Read Also: Best Bubble Hockey Table to Buy

Where Can You Play Bubble Hockey?

If you are not lucky enough to find a bar or arcade room with a dome hockey table as it is not as common as pool and foosball, bubble hockey is a welcome addition to any home game room or man cave.

Playing somewhere else than you own home is a great way for people to try out bubble hockey before they invest in a table to make sure that it is the right decision for them.

How big is a table?

If you look at the most popular bubble hockey table as an example, the ICE Super Chexx Pro, they are usually 60.00 in X 30.00 in X 54.00 in (152.4 cm X 76.2 cm X 137.2 cm) and weigh 138 lbs (62 kg).

Bubble hockey tables are smaller than most foosball and air hockey tables, which should make it the perfect addition to your man cave, or the family room.

Can you customize the elements of the game?

Absolutely! Even though you don't have to be a hockey fan or to customize anything to play Bubble Hockey, some players spend the time to customize their air hockey tables to the smallest details, from the table to the players.

First, it is possible to get one of the approved licenses amongst NHL®, USA, Canada & CCCP Teams, which includes custom graphics, side panels, and center ice logo, as well as U.S. and Canadian anthems, live action sounds, along with animated replay & live game announcing. A true hockey experience.

Alternatively, you can hand paint the players (sometimes called CHEXX men) yourself.