Air hockey

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Ten-Time World Champion, Danny Hynes [1]

Air hockey is a game for two competing players trying to score points in the opposing player's goal using a table having a special low-friction playing surface.

Equipment and facts[edit]

Air hockey requires an air-hockey table, two player-held mallets, and a puck.

An air hockey table in Currier House

A typical air hockey table consists of large smooth playing surface, 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 play 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. Note that 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. An air hockey table has very little friction.

Air Hockey Mallet

Currently, the only tables that are approved for play and sanctioned by the USAA (United States Air-Table-Hockey Association) for tournament play are 8-foot tables. Approved tables include the Photon, Pro-Style, Best Shot, older Blue Top, Brown Top, Purple Top or Black Top with unpainted rails. The HotFlash 2 and other full-size commercial tables with neon lights and/or painted rails are not approved for USAA play but can be used to learn the game.

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-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.

Gameplay[edit]

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 meaning 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).

History[edit]

Air Hockey was invented by a group of Brunswick Billiards employees from 1969 to 1972. In 1969, a trio of Brunswick engineers - Phil Crossman, Bob Kenrick, and Brad Baldwin - began work on creating a game using a frictionless 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 disk, two mallets 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, Kenrick and Lemieux.[2][3] It should also be noted that the air table proper had already been patented before Brunswick's project, though for unrelated purposes.[4]

In any event, the game was an immediate financial success and by the mid-1970s there arose substantial 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, Damians, and the University of Houston. To ensure uniform play standards of the highest competitive quality, the United States Air-Table Hockey Association (USAA) was formed in 1975 by J. Phillip "Phil" Arnold, largely as an official sanctioning body. In this way, non-player friendly rules imposed by Brunswick corporation were rendered void, and the sport of Air Hockey was secured under the control of players since that time. Since its inception, the USAA has sanctioned at least one national-level or World championship each year, crowning 12 different champions over 30 years. The USAA remains at present the only recognized worldwide player organization for Air Hockey, and has maintained a close relationship with table manufacturers and event promoters over the years. 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, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, New York City, and Boston in the United States of America, Barcelona in Spain, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Novgorod in Russia, and Most and Brno in the Czech Republic. From 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.

Tournament History[edit]

World Championships [5]

Year Champion Runner-up Third Place
1978 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Phil Arnold Flag of the United States.svg Rolf Moore
1979 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Phil Arnold Flag of the United States.svg Joe Campbell
1980 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Phil Arnold Flag of the United States.svg Joe Campbell
1980 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins
1981 Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Paul Burger Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty
1981 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Paul Marshall
1982 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson
1983 Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Phil Arnold
1984 Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson
1985 Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez Flag of the United States.svg Vince Schappell
1985 Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins
1986 Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins
1986 Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez
1987 Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Phil Arnold
1987 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez
1988 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez
1988 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Joe Campbell
1989 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty
1989 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez
1990 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez
1990 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Phil Arnold Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins
1991 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez
1991 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Albert Ortiz
1992 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Robert Hernandez Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins
1992 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Keith Fletcher Flag of the United States.svg Vince Schappell
1993 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Andy Yevish Flag of the United States.svg Keith Fletcher
1994 Flag of the United States.svg John Giraldo Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman
1995 Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs Flag of the United States.svg Wil Upchurch Flag of the United States.svg Don James
1996 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Wil Upchurch Flag of the United States.svg Andy Yevish
1997 Flag of the United States.svg Wil Upchurch Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty
1999 Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg José Mora Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Pedro Otero Flag of the United States.svg Jimmy Heilander
2000 Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg José Mora Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Pedro Otero Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman
2001 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg José Mora
2002 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs
2003 Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg José Mora Flag of the United States.svg Andy Yevish
2004 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Andy Yevish Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Marino
2005 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Marino
2006 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Wil Upchurch Flag of the United States.svg Davis Lee
2007 Flag of the United States.svg Davis Lee Flag of the United States.svg Keith Fletcher Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry
2008 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of Venezuela (state).svg Jose Mora
2009 Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Davis Lee Flag of the United States.svg Keith Fletcher
2010 Flag of the United States.svg Davis Lee Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Marino
2011 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs
2011 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs
2012 Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry
2012 Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman
2013 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Davis Lee Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Pedro Otero
2014 Flag of the United States.svg Billy Stubbs Flag of the United States.svg Davis Lee Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes

US Championship [5]

Year Champion Runner-up Third Place
1983 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins Flag of the United States.svg Bob Dubuisson
1984 Flag of the United States.svg Jesse Douty Flag of the United States.svg Phil Arnold Flag of the United States.svg Mark Robbins
1998 Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg José Mora Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Pedro Otero Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman
2004 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Don James
2007 Flag of the United States.svg Wil Upchurch Flag of the United States.svg Davis Lee Flag of the United States.svg Keith Fletcher
2009 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg José Mora

European Championship [5]

Year Champion Finalist Third Place
2006 (Singles) Flag of the United States.svg Goran Mitic Flag of the United States.svg Michael L. Rosen Flag of Spain.svg José Luis Camacho[6]
2007 (Singles) Flag of Spain.svg José Luis Camacho Flag of Russia.svg Sergey Antonov Flag of Spain.svg Sergio López
2006 (Teams) Flag of Catalonia.svg Catalonia Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czech Republic
2007 (Teams) Flag of Russia.svg Russia Flag of Catalonia.svg Catalonia

Texas State Open [5]

Year Champion Runner-up Third Place
1998 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Jose Mora Flag of the United States.svg Wil Upchurch
2000 Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Jose Mora Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Jimmy Heilander
2002 Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Jose Mora Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Marino
2003 Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Marino Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Jose Mora Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes
2004 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Marino
2005 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Ehab Shoukry Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Marino
2007 Flag of the United States.svg Tim Weissman Flag of the United States.svg Vince Schappell Flag of the United States.svg Joe Cain
2008 Flag of the United States.svg Danny Hynes Flag of the United States.svg Jimmy Heilander Flag of the United States.svg Syed Rahman

Catalan Championship [5]

Year Champion Runner-up Third Place
2003 Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Pedro Otero Flag of Venezuela (1954-2006).svg Emilio Araujo Flag of Spain.svg Marc García[7]
2004 Flag of Spain.svg Marc García Flag of Spain.svg Sergio López Flag of Spain.svg José Luis Camacho
2005 Flag of Spain.svg José Luis Camacho Flag of Spain.svg Sergio López Flag of Spain.svg Marc García
2006 Flag of Spain.svg José Luis Camacho Flag of Spain.svg Marc García Flag of Spain.svg Javi Navarro
2007 Flag of Spain.svg Marc García Flag of Spain.svg Mauro Sturlese Flag of Spain.svg Javi Navarro
2008 Flag of Spain.svg Sergio López Flag of Spain.svg José Luis Camacho Flag of Spain.svg Mauro Sturlese

Russian Open [5]

Year Champion Runner-up Third Place
2006 Flag of Spain.svg Paulo "The Cannon" Lourenço Flag of Russia.svg Igor Masloboev[8] Flag of Russia.svg Sergey Grishin
2007 Flag of Russia.svg Dimitriy Butyrev Flag of Russia.svg Sergey Grishin Flag of Russia.svg Nikita Vaganov
2008 Flag of Russia.svg Cláudio Barimbetche Flag of Russia.svg Vadim Chizhevskiy Flag of Russia.svg German Vargin

References[edit]

  1. ^ USAA World Rankings
  2. ^ US 3773325 
  3. ^ US 3927885 
  4. ^ US 3415478 
  5. ^ a b c d e f AirHockeyWorld.com tournament results
  6. ^ European champion"
  7. ^ Catalan champion"
  8. ^ Russian champion"

External links[edit]

  • Air Hockey World AirHockeyWorld.com - contains tournament history, news, forums, tips, FAQ, rules, USAA information and photos.
  • Way of the Puck - feature-length documentary film about the history and mythology of competitive air hockey.
  • proairhockey.com proairhockey.com - contains tournament history, news, tips, FAQ, rules, USAA information, photos and an iPhone and Android Air Hockey Coach!
  • playairhockey.org playairhockey.org - non-profit dedicated to mentoring and air hockey table donations at children's organizations.
  • socalairhockey.com socalairhockey.com - Team site for Southern California Air Hockey.
  • unapllc.com unapllc.com - contains tournament info, news, tips, FAQ.
  • Official Air Hockey Twitter Account Twitter account dedicated to the promotion of air hockey
  • AirHockey.com AirHockey.com
  • Air Hockey History A brief history on the evolution of the sport.
  • www.coairhockey.com Colorado Air Hockey - local and global event info, news, forums, photos, rules, and more!