A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Air Hockey Rules

A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Air Hockey Rules

How many times have you gotten into a heated debate with someone while playing a game of air hockey over house rules? If you’re like us, it’s probably happened more than once, especially if you know basic air hockey rules, which are completely different than house rules set by your friends.

Sure, we get it. Playing by the rules isn’t a lot of fun, especially when you’re just used to taking a couple of paddles and playing for fun.

Boys Playing Air Hockey

However, if you’re really good at the game and want to start competing in local tournaments, you’re going to want to know the official air hockey rules, as stated by the US Air Hockey Association.

Today, we are going to give you a brief run down of the rules for playing air hockey so you can crush it the next time you play the game.

Official Air Hockey Rules

Before we can get right into the rules of playing air hockey, we first want touch briefly on the requirements for the table, the mallet, and the puck used for air hockey. 

The Table

A sanctioned air hockey table must meet all USAA standards. This includes tables like:

  • Brunswick Blue Top
  • Dynamo Brown Top
  • Gold Standard Games Tournament Pro

Not only must you use a sanctioned air hockey table, but your table must also be broken in – meaning it isn’t a brand-new table. Players must also agree to play on the table if the USAA Board of Directors have granted a “Conditional Approval” in special circumstances. Also, a table with an overhead light cannot be used in a tournament.

The Mallets

Mallets used in air hockey must be approved by the game’s referees and meet the USAA requirements:

  • Mallet must weigh 6 ounces or less
  • Diameter must be less than 4 and 1/16-inches
  • Color of outside rim must be different than the air hockey table
  • Mallet must be made from the same material throughout its entire construction

The Pucks

There are three types of pucks that have been approved by the USAA:

  • Lexan yellow
  • Lexan red
  • Dynamo green

The puck must have at least one layer of white plastic tape on the top side of the puck. A puck with more than one layer of white tape may be used as long as both players agree to this.

Air Hockey Pucks

Also, the puck cannot be changed in the middle of the game unless players both agree, or the referee insists on changing pucks because there is an obvious flaw in the puck, making it unplayable.

Rules Of The Game

Now that you know the rules for the equipment used to play the game, let’s get right into the official air hockey rules, as listed by the USAA.

  • The first person to reach 7 points wins
  • To score a point, players must sink the puck into the opposing player’s goal
  • The player who scores the point will get to serve the next shot
  • A player can only hand serve the puck only after it was in their goal
  • Players can only use one mallet at a time when playing the game – violators will receive a foul
  • Any part of the mallet may be used to strike the puck
  • After winning the game, players will switch sides for the next round
  • Players cannot top the puck (put the mallet on top of the puck) – violators will receive a foul
  • Players can use the mallet to bring an airborne puck back to the table and not get a foul
  • Only one puck may be used at a time
  • Players have 7 seconds to make a shot that crosses the center line
  • When the puck comes in contact with the centerline, both players may strike the puck
  • Players cannot stand past the center line. They may stand on their side, anywhere behind it
  • Any part of a player (hand, arm, clothing, or body) cannot touch the puck - this results in a foul
  • Players are allowed 1 10-second time-out per game
  • Players can only take a time-out when they have the puck, or the puck is not in play
  • Players must clearly indicate to the referee they are taking a time-out
  • Players only have 10 seconds to remove the puck from their goal and put it back on the table

Air Hockey Table Rules: Explaining Fouls and Penalties

We’ve mentioned things that could get you a foul or a penalty. First, let’s clear up what it means to be given a foul:

  • Foul – you lose control of the puck
  • Technical foul – the player who doesn’t make a technical foul gets to take a free shot

Let’s take a closer look at what could get you penalized in the game of air hockey:

  • Excessive or unnecessary of stalling the game
  • Offending player intentionally hits the defending player with the puck
  • Goal tending, which is where the puck is moved toward the goal for a score
  • Player loses all control of their mallet when the puck is in play
  • Player aggressively strikes the puck, causing the puck to leave the table
  • Violating the centerline rules
  • Player makes noise that is distractive (includes talking to others and/or making loud noises)
  • Defending player may not strike the offensive player’s mallet or puck (and vice versa)
  • Mallet crosses completely over the centerline

Final Thoughts

The rules of air hockey are pretty straight forward – don’t be too aggressive and respect the other player. It’s pretty simple, right? We thought so too. Now that you know the official air hockey rules, go forth and kick some air hockey butt!