Jump to content

Air hockey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Air Hockey
World Champions Ehab Shoukry and Danny Hynes face off at the 2005 National Championships
Years active1973 to present
GenresElectro-mechanical, arcade, table sport, bar sport
SkillsDexterity, agility, hand-eye coordination, reaction time

Air hockey is a Pong-like tabletop sport where two opposing players try to score goals against each other on a low-friction table[1] using two hand-held discs ("mallets") and a lightweight plastic puck.

The air hockey table has raised edges that allow the puck to reflect off horizontally, and a very smooth, slippery surface that further reduces friction by suspending the puck on a thin cushion of air ejected from tiny vent holes built inside the surface. This causes the puck to hover and move easily across the table with little loss of velocity, which simulates the lubricated sliding of an ice hockey puck across a well polished rink, hence the name of the game.


  • United States Air Hockey Association (USAA) - 1978
  • Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA) - 2015

Air hockey tables[edit]

An air hockey table in Currier House

A typical air hockey table consists of a large smooth playing surface designed to minimize friction, 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 playing surface through tiny holes, 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. 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. There also exist pucks that use a battery and fan to generate their own air cushion, but as they are prone to breakage, they are commonly marketed only as toys.

Air hockey mallet

The only tables that are approved for play and sanctioned by the USAA (United States Air Hockey Association) and the AHPA (Air Hockey Players Association) for tournament play are 8-foot tables. Approved tables include all Gold Standard Games 8-foot tables; some 8-foot tables from Dynamo; and the original 8-foot commercial Brunswick tables. Other full-size novelty-type tables with flashing lights on the field of play, painted rails, and/or smaller pucks are not approved for tournament play. There are also smaller air hockey tables having a size of 1.5, 2, or 2.5 feet, called mini air hockey tables.

The characteristic sound of air hockey

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, called "high-tops", resemble small plastic sombreros, but other mallets, "flat-tops", are used with a shorter nub.

A group of five air hockey pucks

Air hockey pucks are discs made of Lexan polycarbonate resin. Standard USAA and AHPA-approved pucks are yellow, red, and green. In competitive play, a layer of thin white tape is placed on the face-up side. Air hockey pucks come in circles and other shapes (triangle, hexagon, octagon, or square).

Four-player tables also exist, but they are not sanctioned for competitive play.[citation needed]


The basic rules of play are listed as follows:

  • The first player to reach 7 points wins the match
  • First possession of the puck is determined by a coin toss
  • Players may strike the puck with any part of the mallet, and each player can only use one mallet
  • Players have seven seconds to complete a shot towards the opposing goal
  • Once scored on, the player has ten seconds to return the puck back into play
  • When the puck is in contact with any part of the centerline, either player may strike the puck
  • Players can position themselves anywhere around the table as long as they stay on their side of the centerline
  • Each player is permitted a ten-second time out each match, and must be called by the player when they are in possession of the puck, or the puck is out of play
  • "Palming" or any use of the hand in contact with the puck is not permitted
  • Contact with the puck by any part of the player is prohibited
  • “Goal tending” or using the hands to prevent a goal is prohibited
  • Players cannot hit the puck off the table[2][3]

Fouls are issued to players who violate any of the rules. The player who receives the foul must turn possession of the puck over to the opponent. Technical fouls are issued for more severe violations, such a goal tending. When a technical foul is called, the opposing player is given a free shot on the offender's goal. The offender is not allowed to defend the shot, but can resume play if the shot misses and bounces off their end of the table.[2][3]


Competitive (tournament) play is usually distinguished by the following:

  • The mallet is gripped behind the knob using one's fingertips, not on top of it. This allows more wrist action and helps the player to move the mallet around the table faster.
  • For basic defense, the mallet is kept centered at least 8 inches out from the goal. In this position, very slight movements to the left and right will block virtually all straight shots. To block bank shots, one pulls back quickly to the corners of the goal. This is known as the "triangle defense".
  • Shots are often hit out of "drifts", where the puck travels in set patterns designed to throw off the opponent's expectations and timing. The most popular drifts are the "center", "diamond", "diagonal", and "L".
  • Shots are often organized into groups of shots which are hit with the same apparent delivery but opposite directions, caused by hitting the puck at slightly different locations on the mallet. For example, a transverse motion of the right arm can lead to a "cut shot" to the left corner of the opponent's goal or a "right wall under" (bank off the right wall, into the right corner of the opponent's goal).


Air hockey is a game resting on an older technology, the air table. Air tables began as a conveyor technology allowing heavy objects like cardboard boxes to easily slide over a table surface. The original air tables of the 1940s had rather large holes that were plugged by ball bearings. An object sitting on the table would depress the balls, allowing air to escape and lift the object slightly off the table.[4]

By 1967, this had been refined and repurposed as a tool for teaching elementary physics. The table top was a sandwich of fiberboard or plexiglass sheets separated by a honeycomb structure. The top surface was drilled with a grid of small holes, and the space between the boards was supplied with low-pressure compressed air, just enough to allow "air pucks" to float over the surface.[5][6]

In 1968, Sega released an arcade electro-mechanical game similar to air hockey, MotoPolo. Based on polo, two players moved miniature motorbikes around inside a cabinet, with each player attempting to knock the balls into the opponent's goal.[7][8]

Air hockey was created by a group of Brunswick Billiards employees from 1969 to 1972.[9] In 1969, a trio of Brunswick engineers – Phil Crossman, Bob Kenrick and Brad Baldwin – began work on creating a game using a low-friction surface. The project stagnated for several years until it was revived by Bob Lemieux, who then focused on implementing an abstracted version of ice hockey, with a thin disc, two strikers and slit-like goals equipped with photodetectors. It was then decided that the game might appeal to a larger market and air hockey was marketed and sold to the general public. The original patents reference Crossman, Kendrick and Lemieux,[10][11] as well as earlier work on air tables.

The game was an immediate financial success and by the mid-1970s there was interest in tournament play. As early as 1973, players in Houston had formed the Houston Air Hockey Association, and soon thereafter, the Texas Air-Hockey Players Association, codifying rules and promoting the sport through local tournaments at Houston pubs Carnabys and Damians, and the University of Houston.

The United States Air-Table Hockey Association (USAA) was formed in 1975 by J. Phillip "Phil" Arnold, largely as an official sanctioning body.[12] Since its inception, the USAA has sanctioned at least one national-level or World championship each year, crowning 12 different champions over 30 years. In March 2015, the Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA) was announced and is providing air hockey players with an additional organization also overseeing the sport of air hockey.[13] The two organizations run independently but abide by a similar set of rules and share many of the same players. In July 2015, the AHPA crowned its first world champion and also the youngest in the history of the sport in Colin Cummings of Beaumont, Texas.

Today, professional air hockey is played by a close-knit community of serious players around the world, with extensive player bases near Houston, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, North Carolina, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, New York City, Boise, and Boston in the United States; Barcelona in Spain; Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Novgorod in Russia; and Most and Brno in the Czech Republic. In the late 1980s, Caracas, Venezuela served as a hotbed of activity; three-time World Champion Jose Mora and other finalists originated from there. By 1999 most of the Venezuelan activity had disappeared.

Competitive air hockey[edit]

Tournament history[edit]

USAA World Championships[edit]


USAA Air Hockey World Championships by Houston-based United States Air Hockey Association (USAA):

  1. World Singles Championship Since 1978
  2. World Doubles Championship Since 1995
Year Champion Runner-up Third Place
1978 Jesse Douty Phil Arnold Rolf Moore
1979 Jesse Douty Phil Arnold Joe Campbell
1980 Jesse Douty Phil Arnold Joe Campbell
1980 Jesse Douty Robert Hernandez Mark Robbins
1981 Bob Dubuisson Paul Burger Jesse Douty
1981 Jesse Douty Bob Dubuisson Paul Marshall
1982 Jesse Douty Mark Robbins Bob Dubuisson
1983 Bob Dubuisson Jesse Douty Phil Arnold
1984 Mark Robbins Robert Hernandez Bob Dubuisson
1985 Bob Dubuisson Robert Hernandez Vince Schappell
1985 Bob Dubuisson Robert Hernandez Mark Robbins
1986 Robert Hernandez Bob Dubuisson Mark Robbins
1986 Mark Robbins Bob Dubuisson Robert Hernandez
1987 Robert Hernandez Jesse Douty Phil Arnold
1987 Jesse Douty Mark Robbins Robert Hernandez
1988 Jesse Douty Bob Dubuisson Robert Hernandez
1988 Jesse Douty Bob Dubuisson Joe Campbell
1989 Tim Weissman Bob Dubuisson Jesse Douty
1989 Tim Weissman Jesse Douty Robert Hernandez
1990 Tim Weissman Jesse Douty Robert Hernandez
1990 Tim Weissman Phil Arnold Mark Robbins
1991 Tim Weissman Mark Robbins Robert Hernandez
1991 Tim Weissman Jesse Douty Albert Ortiz
1992 Tim Weissman Robert Hernandez Mark Robbins
1992 Tim Weissman Keith Fletcher Vince Schappell
1993 Tim Weissman Andy Yevish Keith Fletcher
1994 John (Owen) Giraldo Mark Robbins Tim Weissman
1995 Billy Stubbs Wil Upchurch Don James
1996 Tim Weissman Wil Upchurch Andy Yevish
1997 Wil Upchurch Tim Weissman Jesse Douty
1999 Jose Mora Pedro Otero Jimmy Heilander
2000 Jose Mora Pedro Otero Tim Weissman
2001 Danny Hynes Tim Weissman José Mora
2002 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry Billy Stubbs
2003 Ehab Shoukry José Mora Andy Yevish
2004 Danny Hynes Andy Yevish Anthony Marino
2005 Danny Hynes Billy Stubbs Anthony Marino
2006 Danny Hynes Wil Upchurch Davis Lee
2007 Davis Lee Keith Fletcher Ehab Shoukry
2008 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry Jose Mora
2009 Ehab Shoukry Davis Lee Keith Fletcher
2010 Davis Lee Billy Stubbs Anthony Marino
2011 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry Billy Stubbs
2011 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry Billy Stubbs
2012 Billy Stubbs Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry
2012 Billy Stubbs Ehab Shoukry Tim Weissman
2013 Danny Hynes Davis Lee Pedro Otero
2014 Billy Stubbs Davis Lee Danny Hynes
2015 Colin Cummings Pedro Otero Danny Hynes
2016 Colin Cummings Danny Hynes Brian Accrocco
2017 Jacob Weissman Vadim Chizhevskiy Colin Cummings
2019 Colin Cummings Vincent Sauceda Jacob Weissman
2021 Colin Cummings Jacob Weissman Jacob Munoz
2022 Colin Cummings Jacob Weissman Marcelo García
2023 Colin Cummings Jacob Weissman Pete Lippincott

AHPA World Championship[edit]


Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA) - Air Hockey World Championship

Year Champion Runner-up Third place
2015 Colin Cummings Billy Stubbs Brian Accrocco
2016 Colin Cummings Brian Accrocco Doug Howard
2017 Colin Cummings Vincent Sauceda Brian Accrocco
2018 Colin Cummings Vincent Sauceda Danny Hynes
2019 Colin Cummings Vincent Sauceda Keith Fletcher

US Championship[edit]


Year Champion Runner-up Third place
1983 Jesse Douty Mark Robbins Bob Dubuisson
1984 Jesse Douty Phil Arnold Mark Robbins
1998 José Mora Pedro Otero Tim Weissman
2004 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry Don James
2007 Wil Upchurch Davis Lee Keith Fletcher
2009 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry José Mora

European Championship[edit]


Year Champion Finalist Third place
2006 (Singles) Goran Mitic Michael L. Rosen José Luis Camacho[NB 1]
2007 (Singles) José Luis Camacho Sergey Antonov Sergio López
2006 (Teams) Spain Czech Republic
2007 (Teams) Russia Spain

Texas State Open[edit]


Year Champion Runner-up Third place
1998 Tim Weissman Jose Mora Wil Upchurch
2000 Jose Mora Danny Hynes Jimmy Heilander
2002 Jose Mora Danny Hynes Anthony Marino
2003 Anthony Marino Jose Mora Danny Hynes
2004 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry Anthony Marino
2005 Danny Hynes Ehab Shoukry Anthony Marino
2007 Tim Weissman Vince Schappell Joe Cain
2008 Danny Hynes Jimmy Heilander Syed Rahman

Catalan Championship[edit]


Year Champion Runner-up Third place
2003 Pedro Otero Emilio Araujo Marc García[NB 2]
2004 Marc García Sergio López José Luis Camacho
2005 José Luis Camacho Sergio López Marc García
2006 José Luis Camacho Marc García Javi Navarro
2007 Marc García Mauro Sturlese Javi Navarro
2008 Sergio López José Luis Camacho Mauro Sturlese

Russian Open[edit]


Year Champion Runner-up Third place
2006 Mauro Sturlese Igor Masloboev[NB 3] Sergey Grishin
2007 Pedro Beles Sergey Grishin Nikita Vaganov
2008 Cláudio Barimbetche Vadim Chizhevskiy German Vargin


  1. ^ "European champion"
  2. ^ "Catalan champion"
  3. ^ "Russian champion"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Everything You Need To Know About Air Hockey". AirHockeyPlace.com. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Let's Play AIR HOCKEY" (PDF). olhausenbilliards.
  3. ^ a b "OFFICIAL AIR HOCKEY RULES". Bubble&AirHockey.
  4. ^ George E. Lamb, Conveyor, U.S. patent 2,315,627, granted Apr. 6, 1943
  5. ^ Thomas W. Williams III, Air Table, U.S. patent 3,415,478, granted Dec. 10, 1968.
  6. ^ Thomas W. Williams III, Air Table, U.S. patent 3,429,544, granted Feb. 25, 1969.
  7. ^ "セガ60周年スペシャルインタビュー。伝説の筐体R360や『バーチャファイター』などアーケード開発者が開発秘話をたっぷり語る!" [Sega 60th Anniversary Special Interview: Arcade developers of the legendary chassis R360 and "Virtua Fighter" tell a lot of development secrets!]. Famitsu (in Japanese). 28 June 2020. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Arcade Developers Talk Sega's History of Taking On Challenges". OneMillionPower. 28 December 2020.
  9. ^ "History of Brunswick Billiards". Brunswick Billiards. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  10. ^ US 3773325, Crossman, Phillip E.; Kenrick, Robert G. & Le Mieux, Robert W., "Air cushion table game", published 1973-11-20, assigned to The Brunswick Corp. 
  11. ^ US 3927885, Crossman, Phillip E.; Kenrick, Robert G. & Le Mieux, Robert W., "Puck and bat for an air cushion table game", published 1975-12-23, assigned to The Brunswick Corp. 
  12. ^ "The History of Air Hockey". airhockeytablereviews.com. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h "AirHockeyWorld.com tournament results". Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2009.
  14. ^ http://www.airhockeyworld.com/
  15. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20100402072256/http://www.airhockeyworld.com/tourneylist.asp

External links[edit]

NCAHP (North Carolina Air Hockey Players) website