So you think you can just turn up and instantly be an Air Hockey Hero? Maybe you are the Luke Skywalker of Hockey and were born with ‘The Puck’, I mean the Force.
For us mere mortals, here are some Air Hockey Tips to improve your game and help you win matches against your friends and family.
Holding The Mallet
There are several ways to hold the mallet. A lot of the time a new players first instinct is to grab the central knob with the palm facing either down or to the side of the knob.
This is ok, but is not optimal if you want to play with speed and accuracy.
Many of the pros hold the mallet by bending their middle finger and placing it against the back of the knob whilst the forefinger and ring finger are placed to the side of the knob. The thumb and small finger do not touch the mallet or the table.
Personally, I place all four fingers in the mallet rim behind and to the side of the mallet. Not holding the mallet with your palm allows for greater wrist action, control and faster shots.
Air Hockey Offense Tips
The are several shots you can use to score a goal, but before we get to some of the better examples, a quick note on where on the air hockey table you should strike the puck. You can strike the puck anywhere up to the centre line (as long as your mallet does not cross the centre line).
You have 7 seconds to take your shot. Use this space and time to line up your shots.
Do not strike all your shots near your own goal – the puck has further to travel and your opponent has more time to react.
The Cross Straight Shot
The aim of this shot is to hit the puck straight into the corner of your opponent’s goal. This is a fairly simple shot to pull off after a bit of practice.
The puck is in the centre of the table. You pull back the mallet at a 45 degree angle towards your opposite side and swipe across the back of the puck aiming at the corner of the goal.
If you hit the puck on too much of an angle (on the side) it will hit the sides of the table (becoming a poorly executed bank shot).
The Bank Shot
The bank shot is a shot that hits the side of the table before reaching the opponent’s goal. In arcades you will often see the puck hit both sides of the table before reaching the goal.
Do not do this. It reduces the speed of the shot every time it hits a side wall and provides your opponent time to adjust the defensive position.
Always aim to hit the bank once.
There are two common types of bank shot, the over or under. The most common is the under back shot.
This is where the puck hits the side wall and goes behind your opponents mallet and into the goal. This happens when your opponent is defending higher up the table.
The over bank shot is when your opponent is defending on the goal line and the puck travels across / in front of the mallet into the goal.
To pull off the shot you will want to use wrist power rather than arm power.
The main reason being that using your arm rather than a snapping wrist can generate too much power resulting in the puck leaving the table.
Air Hockey Defense Tips
A common approach is to hold the mallet an inch or two in front of the goal. Although you can block shots with this approach, it gives you very little time to react to mis-timed blocks and you are prone to leaking goals from a ricochet off the mallet.
A better approach is to hold the puck 6 to 12 inches in front of you, depending on your air hockey table size. This narrows down the angle when defending straight shots and allows you to react to bank shots by quickly moving the mallet backwards.
Another great tip is not hit the puck straight back, remember, the rules of air hockey state you have 7 seconds – control the puck and set up your next shot.
Air Hockey Tips from Pros
The video below is from 10 time world champion Tim Weissman who shares the best defensive stance and other tips.
A video on some fantastic trick shots can be found here.