The air hockey table game you know and love today was invented in 1969 by a group of Brunswick billiards engineers. It was initially slated for a commercial release, but was set aside. Several years after the initial concept’s development, engineers designed the first air hockey game, consisting of a mallet and disc.
The game was originally played on a table, using discs and a square mallet. The game is now played using a goal mallet. A table is a table that provides a smooth surface that produces zero friction. Typically, the playing surface is comprised of hundreds of tiny holes through which a steady supply of gentle air is pumped. The puck then glides on a cushion of air just above the surface of the table. Some surfaces are smooth surfaces with no holes, and the wind is generated by a battery-powered air hockey game puck that generates its own cushion of air. It should be noted that these are not regulated or approved for use in any United States Air Hockey Association-approved events, games or tournaments.
The air hockey game grew in popularity in the 1970s as an amateur sport with arcade toy sensations, college dorm rec room staples, and tournament play. Tournament play began in the early 1980s with the formation of the first professional league, The Houston Air Hockey Association, in Houston, Texas. After the establishment of the Houston Group, a state-wide Texas Air Hockey Players Association formed and developed formal rules and regulations for the game, further qualifying it as a sport. USAA-approved tables will only be suitable for two-player games, although four-player game tables exist for novice and recreational use.
The present day rules for the game are now set by the USAA, and include the following rules:
1) At the start of the game, a coin toss or face-off determines the player who will start the game with the first possession of the puck in play.
2) The first player to score seven points wins the game.
3) Once the puck has crossed the center line into the player’s field of the table, that player has up to 7 seconds to return the puck to the opposing player’s field, or else he has made a is dishonest.
4) Other fouls include catching the puck with your mallet, touching the puck with any part of a player’s body, or leaving the table altogether.
Competitive sports and tournaments are still played on an international level today, with professional tournaments being played throughout Europe and the United States. The USAA is the only known governing body on sport in any country or continent, and therefore, USAA rules apply to any tournament played around the world. Despite this level of success, the game of air hockey is still considered a recreational non-sport among most players, who associate it with arcade and bar-play. It is still seen in many recreational venues and arcades, but is often overshadowed by the presence of video gaming systems.