To play Air Hockey, you’ll need an air hockey table (obviously), two mallets – one for each player, a puck and a playing partner. It’s not possible to play air hockey without any of these conditions met.
As far as the game is concerned, you simply have to prevent the puck from getting into your post, and at the same time , try to get the puck into your opponent’s post, just like football, but with one-man teams and no complex rules.
Having explained the basic idea of the game play, lets get down to a more detailed guide to playing air hockey.
Offensive play :
The major difference between a novice and a professional air hockey player attacking is their grip. Novice tend to hold onto the knob of the mallet with their entire hands because it gives them more control over the puck. However, the thing that novices eventually realize after months of play is that applying that much pressure on the mallet reduces their accuracy and stresses their wrists out too soon into the game.
Professionals on the other hand understand that the puck doesn’t weigh that much, and doesn’t require so much effort on the grip. If you study professionals closely, they simply have a finger or two behind the knob of the mallet. This gives them full use of their wrists without getting tired anytime soon.
You simply need to anticipate movement and flick the mallet in the direction the puck is anticipated to come from and counter strike. This grip/handling supports speed and precision over strength. You could also use a glove so that your fingers are padded and you can maintain a firm grip of the mallet even when you’re sweating during an intense game.
Defensive Play :
Most of the great air hockey players use a defense method called the triangle defense. In this method, you keep the puck circling in a triangular pattern around your post. It goes from the left of your post to the middle up ahead, to the other right, and vice versa.
During this movement, you defend and attack at the same time. This mostly helps when the odds are stacked against you and you simply want to test your opponent’s patience. After a while, you seem predictable, and as soon as you see your opponent try to take advantage of what they think is a flaw, you flip the play and attack even more.
Puck Control :
Given the general idea of playing air hockey, keeping possession of the hockey might seem impossible to you as a novice, but I assure you, it’s one of the most important lessons to learn here. This has nothing to do with your grip or the mode of play, but your intentions.
Simply put, if you don’t have possession of the ball, it would be very difficult for you to score. Novices just hit the puck wildly and lose possession all the time. Professionals on the other hand, ensure that even though you’re firing your shots towards your opponent, you remain in control of the puck.
You could decide to hit the puck for as many times as you want without giving your opponent access to touch it, let alone make a move. Its pretty evasive, but you have to concentrate so that you don’t end up scoring into your own post.
To learn this move, you need to start off slowly while you practice alone. Every time the puck comes back to your side of the table, play with it a little before sending it back to the opposite side. In a matter of time, you will get the hang of it and be able to do it faster at full speed without losing possession.
Drifting the Puck :
This move is a masterpiece. However, to master this, you need to have good puck control. While dancing about the table with the puck, you could deceive your opponent by softly drifting it to one side and then playing it to another. It’s like taking a penalty kick in football, where you look at one side of the post and play the ball to the other expect in this case, you need to touch the puck at least twice.
To avoid being so predictable, you don’t have to send the puck to the opposite side of your drift every time. In fact, you could drift it a little, stop the puck and then fire straight to the middle, or place a bend shot.
By mastering these moves, you get to improve your skill and confidence, and most importantly intimidate your opponent and get into their head. Having “skill” in this sport with such simple rules and mode of play says a lot about how well you have trained and how well terrified your opponent should be of you.
See our guide to getting an air hockey table.
Hey! , I am Roland Campbell , a table tennis player for over 5 years and counting. I do a lot of research on table tennis (Ping Pong) and publish my findings here at Pingthatpong.