Learn About The Fun Game Of Air Hockey
People often ask, what is air hockey? Some ask, is it a sport or just another recreational activity? Others comically draw up the conclusion that air hockey is simply a hockey game played in the air. Whatever you feel air hockey is, this article is fashioned out to state in clear terms exactly what the game is, how and where it is played.
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WHAT IS AIR HOCKEY?
Air hockey was invented by an enthusiastic group of employees at Brunswick Billiard from 1969-1972. Work on the friction less table for the game was kicked started by some other group of people; Brad Baldwin, Phil Crossman, and Bob Kendrick.
To clear every doubt, air hockey is a sport. It involves two opposing players trying to score goals against each other in the opponent's half of a special air hockey table. This table is a low friction table designed especially for the game; if you thought the game was played in the air, well, that should set your assumptions straight. Both players make use of a handheld striker to hit the puck (some sort of special hockey ball) around the table in order to score goals and points in the game.
The best air hockey table is probably the most distinct equipment used during the game play. It is made up of a sufficiently large playing surface, and a rail protector that prevents the striker and puck from falling off the table. Two separate slots are located in the rails at either side of the opponent's individual halves to serve as goals. The puck is returned back to the table after each goal is scored thanks to the presence of a "Puck return" below and behind the goals.
The construction of the table allows for a machinery to create some sort of cushioned air effect through tiny holes on the table. This effect is necessary to reduce friction on the table so as to increase the speed of the game. Tables such as these are expensive and difficult to maintain. They are not regularly available, except during top tournaments.
However, there are other cheaper alternatives that can produce a similar effect that the air cushioned table can. These tables have a plastic or a slick and smooth surface instead. Unfortunately, since these tables totally eliminate the use of air cushion, they cannot be regarded as standard air hockey tables. Well, this is not much of a problem since the gameplay remains the same and a similar effect can be experienced by players.
TOURNAMENT APPROVED AIR HOCKEY TABLES
Not all air hockey tables are allowed to be used during a top tournament. The United States Air Hockey Association (USAA) and the Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA) approve air hockey game tables that have 8-foot only for tournaments. Some typical examples are a Brunswick commercial 8-foot table, the Gold Standard Games tables, and so on. Other types of tables are not approved but can be used for recreation and learning purposes.
Bear in the mind that these tables are designed for two players only. However, four-player tables do exist but they are not used in tournament situations.
WHAT IS A STRIKER USED FOR IN AN AIR HOCKEY GAME?
Strikers are most often called goalie, mallet or paddle by air hockey players. It has a simple handle attached to a flat surface which makes contact with the smooth surface of the table. Two common paddles are used in the game; the “high top” and “flat top” paddle. High top paddles have a longer knob when compared to the flat top paddles. They look more like plastic sombreros when used in the game.
WHAT IS A PUCK?
These pucks are similar to the disc-shaped hockey balls used in a field hockey game. Air hockey pucks are manufactured from polycarbonate resins and are available in varieties. AHPA and USAA approved pucks are usually yellow, green or red in color. These pucks could also take different shapes ranging from circular discs to hexagonal ones.
AIR HOCKEY GAMEPLAY
Note that some of the rules and scenarios described below do not apply when you are playing just for leisure. In a tournament, on the other hand, all of these rules and some added ones are applicable.
Players are to grab the "striker" behind the knob not on top of it using just a fingertip. The grip configuration allows the player to freely move the striker about the table since other fingers are free.
Shots are made in the form of drifts. Drifts are shots that take the opponent off-guard, the most popular drifts are the "L" shaped drifts, diamond and diagonal ones.
Players can organize shots into groups by hitting the puck in directions using the striker. These shots can be done based on the discretion of the player in a bid to confuse the opponent.
While shots are important, defense during gameplay is equally important. For defense, the striker should be kept at least 8 inches from the goal for the most part of the game. Moving the striker slightly to the right and left will almost certainly block all straight shots. Pulling back towards the corner of the goal stops bank shots. This form of defense is called the triangular defense.
Other styles are applicable as long as they match the basic rules of air hockey game.
Fun Game Of Air Hockey - Video
AIR HOCKEY TOURNAMENTS
Air hockey tournaments have existed for a while now. The first of these was the USAA world championship which started in 1978. Subsequent editions extended the tournament's reign to recent times. The last edition held in 2015.
Other popular air hockey tournaments around the world include the AHPA championship with two editions held in 2015 and 2016 respectively, the US championships, European championships, Russian open, Catalan championship and the Texas open. Asides the AHPA championship, other tournaments have held different editions of the tournaments for more than a 5-year period. There are several winners of these competitions with game records set and broken at each one.
Air hockey games can be fun, which makes being an expert not much of a problem. While you can play the game on a real air hockey table, there are online versions for both adults and kids to enjoy. Smartphone air hockey game applications are also available.