The 8 Best Air Hockey Tables
8. Harvil 4-Foot
7. American Heritage Monarch
6. Playcraft Sport
5. Triumph Lumen-X
4. EastPoint Sports NHL Power Play
3. Gold Standard Elite
2. Sport Squad HX40
1. Fat Cat Pockey
What To Think About Before Buying An Air Hockey Table
There are couple of questions you should ask yourself before you decide which air hockey table to purchase. First consider who will be playing on the table. If you own a bar, or you run a youth club — that is, if you're buying an air hockey table for use by anyone outside your immediate household — you should probably be looking for an arcade style table. If it's for your kids, though, you might be happy with a smaller, more affordable model, or even a tabletop version. If you go this route, it can still make for more engaging gameplay as long as you purchase one with cool features like sound effects and an electronic scoreboard.
Next, you need to ask yourself how seriously the intended players take the game. You don't need to be an aspiring Colin Cummings to want a top quality, arcade style table. Even if you're only playing occasionally, you might still want to splash out some cash on a table that will look good in your man cave or spare room. If you are particularly competitive and in search of a premium gaming experience, then you'll want to look for a product that has a powerful motor, a durable surface, and well-designed rails.
Be aware that some air hockey tables marketed as kid's toys don't actually have the machinery to provide a cushion of air on the table, relying instead on a slick surface. That's probably fine for young kids, but if you're used to playing in an arcade, you're likely to find the experience lackluster at best. If you think you or your kids will easily get bored of air hockey and might want to periodically play foosball, table tennis, or pool instead, then you might want to purchase a combo game table.
Finally, you should consider how much space you have for your table. If you are tight on space, it makes sense to buy a tabletop version that you can store in the closet when not in use, unless of course you plan on throwing out some furniture. After all, why waste time sitting on a couch when you can be playing an invigorating game of air hockey?
If you don't have a lot of space, but feel like a tabletop version just won't be up to your standards, you can buy a foldaway table or a lightweight model that can be moved out of the way when not in use. These are usually a bit more sturdy and have a larger playing surface than most tabletop models.
If space isn't an issue and you have determined that you and your friends are up for some serious, competition-level gaming, then a full-sized model is what you need.
How Do Air Hockey Tables Work, Anyway?
The United States Air Hockey Association is surprisingly strict about which air hockey tables are acceptable for official play. Not only must they meet stringent size regulations, but they must also be one of the models sanctioned by the association. They don't just have rules regarding what type of table players can use, but also what gaming accessories are acceptable. We're a little less fussy than that, but we will say this: it's not a real air hockey table without air. The cushion of air is vital to a true air hockey experience, after all. It is this that allows the puck to glide across the surface as if it was sliding across ice.
To create this cushion of air, manufacturers put a motor and fan somewhere inside of the table. Once the motor is turned on, the fan forces jets of air through thousands of tiny pin holes in the gaming surface. This creates enough pressure to slightly lift the puck off the surface, much like how a hovercraft works.
These are the basic components of any air hockey table. As the models get more complex, they will incorporate more technology. For example, tables that feature an electronic scoreboard will have a sensor somewhere inside of the goal that registers when a puck passes through. Some versions may have glowing pucks that light up each time they are hit, or lights integrated into the side rails that illuminate the playing surface.
A Brief History Of Air Hockey
Air hockey was first invented by three employees of the Brunswick Billiards company: Brad Baldwin, Phil Crossman, and Bob Kendrick. In 1969, they had the idea for a frictionless gaming surface, though they didn't know exactly what kind of game it would be best suited to. This resulted in the project stagnating for a couple of years with no real direction. Luckily for air hockey aficionados, they happened to cross paths with a man who had the perfect vision of how to use a frictionless gaming surface; retired pro hockey defencemen Bob Lemieux. Once he hopped on board, he helped focus the project towards creating a modified version of ice hockey, rightly assuming that the air table the Brunswick employees were developing would replicate the way a puck effortlessly glided across ice at high speeds. And so, air hockey was born. For reasons that are unclear, the original patent only included the names of three of the four men.
The game was instantly a smash hit, proving to be extremely popular, as well as profitable for the company. In 1973, a group of players in Houston formed the first air hockey association. Originally known as the Houston Air Hockey Association, it quickly changed its name to the Texas Air Hockey Association. Due to a growing interest in large scale official national tournaments, J. Phillip Arnold established the United States Air Hockey Association (USAA) in 1975. The association then went on to establish official tournament rules and started to actively promote the sport. Since 1975, the USAA has held over 30 annual tournaments, either domestically or internationally, and crowned more than 10 champions.
In 2015, another governing body arose, the Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA), and started holding their own international tournaments. Currently the USAA and AHPA share many rules, and high-level players often compete in both associations, though the organizations are run independently of one another.