Air hockey delivers a thrill that is unlike any other table game. The smooth playing surface is unique to this game. And if you’ve played one in an arcade, you’ll always be drawn to playing it again and again.
But the question remains, how does an air hockey table work? What makes its playing surface so smooth and why does the puck slide so fast along the surface?
In this article, you’ll learn the different parts of an air hockey table, how it works, and how to play. Though you will not be learning tips on how to win a game of air hockey, you will be able to appreciate the gameplay more once you know how the table works.
Before going into the details behind how the table works, it’s best to start out with the basics. Just what is air hockey? Is it different from the ice hockey competition many have come to know and love? Well, yes and no.
Air hockey differs from ice hockey in that the latter is played on an iced skating rink. Air hockey, on the other hand, is played on a table with an air-cushioned surface. It resembles ice hockey in a way because of the use of a puck and the goal of shooting the puck into your opponent’s goal.
How does an air hockey table work?
An air hockey table requires an extremely smooth playing surface. The surface is perforated with thousands of miniature holes through which air blows.
The bottom of the air hockey table houses a fan, that when turned on, blows air through the miniature holes giving it a cushioned or frictionless surface. The air blown through these holes should be strong enough to create a cushion that lets the puck hover or slide across the surface at extremely high speeds.
The table also features rebound rails that helps to keep both the puck and the striker within the table at all times. On opposite ends of the length of the table are the goals. The intent of each player should be to shoot their pucks straight to their opponent’s goal and score a goal for a point.
The goals are designed in a way that makes the puck return quick and easy for the game to resume. Players can also use the rebound rails to attack a goal from different angles so as to confuse their opponent and score a goal.
Another important part of the air hockey table are the accessories. You will need what’s called a striker. The striker is also called a paddle, mallet, or goalie. The striker consists of a handle and a flat surface that lies on the playing surface of the table. There are high-top paddles as well as flat-top paddles.
Pucks are also used in the game of air hockey. These pucks are different from ice hockey because they are much thinner. The discs are Lexan polycarbonate resin and are often red, yellow, and green in color as these are the only colors approved by the United States Air Hockey Association (USAA) and the Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA).
What are the different kinds of air hockey tables available?
The only air hockey tables that are approved for play and tournament are those that have the USAA and AHPA certification. These tables also measure 8’ long.
There are other tables that measure less than the standard, but as these are not approved for tournament play, these tables are usually marketed as toys or tables that can be used to learn the game. The latter usually measure 7’ long, 40-42” in length, or the completely mini or tabletop versions that come in only at 20-21” in length.
How do you play on an air hockey table?
Each player gets a striker and grips these strikers behind the knob rather than on top of it. This position allows for more wrist movement and allows the player to move the striker faster across the surface.
The basic defense position is to keep the striker on the center at least 8” away from your goal. You will only need slight movements to either direction to block straight shots coming your way. Another type of defense is called the “triangle defense” where the player pulls back quickly to the corners of their goal to block bank shots.
There are different types of offensive shots, the most popular being the center, diamond, the diagonal shot, and the L. For more optimized chances of shooting a goal, you want to make groups of shots rather than making different ones each time.
What makes the game of air hockey more challenging is the fact that it has a frictionless surface due to the cushion of air delivered by the fan. There are also tables without a frictionless surface, but the gameplay is nowhere near what you would expect of air hockey.
Now that you know the answer behind the question of how an air hockey table works, it’s now time for you to look for a good table and practice for your next friendly competition with family and friends.