How to Figure Out What Kind of Hockey Table to Go For
If you were choosing a ping pong table it would be pretty straightforward – you’d pretty much be choosing between a full size or a 3/4 size table. Choosing your hockey table, on the other hand, can be a little confusing, to say the least. They range from 3ft right up to 8ft, and there are a ton of different types and styles of air hockey tables to choose from, as you can see from the table below:
|Air Hockey Table Types||Size||Most Suitable For||Use|
|Tabletop||Up to 4ft||Kids||Light|
|Standard||4ft 5ft 6ft 7ft||Kids – Adults||Light – Regular|
|Multi-Player||4ft 5ft||Kids – Families||Light – Regular|
- Choosing Your Air Hockey Table
Measuring the Space You’ll Need for an Air Hockey Table
- No Space? No Problem
- Who Are Tabletop Air Hockey Tables Suitable For?
- What Age Are 4ft to 5ft Air Hockey Tables Suitable For?
- When to go for a 6ft to 7.5ft Air Hockey Table
- What About a Multi-Game Air Hockey Table?
- 8Ft Tables Air Hockey Tables – for the Seriously Air Hockey Obsessed
- How Much Money Should You Sink Into an Air Hockey Table?
- Why I’m Not Sold on Multi-Player Air Hockey Tables
- Final Round-Up
Choosing Your Air Hockey Table
The graphic below gives you an idea of how to figure out what kind of hockey table to go for. The sizes and types of air hockey tables are color-coded from green to red to indicate cost from low to high.
Measuring the Space You’ll Need for an Air Hockey Table
First, because the available space you have may limit the size of air hockey table that you could go for, before you make any decisions:
- Check the dimensions of your room.
- If you are thinking of going for anything more than a tabletop air hockey table, do check that the table will fit through your door and take into account any tight turns you would have to take in order to get it where you want it.
- Allow at least 48″ all around for a 6ft, 7ft, or 8ft table.
- Allow at least 36″ on either end for a 4ft to 5ft table.
Now I say 4 feet minimum for a 6ft, 7ft, or 8ft table, as a rough estimate because, for good technique, you will need room to raise your back leg behind you for balance and flexibility when reaching over to block or strike the puck near the centerline. Smaller tables require slightly less legroom because everything is more within reach. But anything less than 3 feet on either end is less than ideal.
No Space? No Problem
If you are buying for little kids, or if you don’t have space for a free-standing table, you can still have a ton of fun playing on a tabletop air hockey table. They may not have the surface area required to practice anything more than very basic straight or bank shots, but if you choose a decent one it should perform really well, so they can still be a lot of fun to play on.
The other option is to go for a foldable air hockey table. The PUCK Calix pictured left is a 4ft table that can easily be stored upright. This one only has a manual scoring system on either end and there are no fancy extras like lights or anything but, the table shouldn’t be confused with a mediocre one. It has a powerful 12V fan and it’s made by the US company Puck, located in San Antonio, Texas who have a good reputation for making high-quality air hockey tables – they don’t make anything else. At a touch, under the $200 mark, it’s a good price for the size.
Who Are Tabletop Air Hockey Tables Suitable For?
Tabletop air hockey tables are suitable for little kids aged years 3 and up. They work in just the same way that the larger tables work so they give children a real mini-game of air hockey, and the good news is you don’t need to go for anything too special because there are actually some really nice tabletop versions out there that are surprisingly low-priced.
The Rally and Roar Tabletop Air Hockey Table, for example, is priced at well under $100. And it’s a proper table, with an AC-12V motor that provides a steady airflow. It also has another nice feature in that it comes with both a built-in sliding scoring system and a LED electronic one too. I really like this one for little kids because it’s not just a kid’s toy, it functions well enough for them to get a proper feel for the game, and it’s one you can join in with and enjoy playing on too.
What Age Are 4ft to 5ft Air Hockey Tables Suitable For?
For slightly older kids of 6 plus years, you might want to consider a 4ft to 5ft table. The Triumph Fire ‘n Ice Light Up Air Powered 54 is a good option and it’s well under $200 which makes it a pretty good value for money option. As its name implies, it has a “fire” end that lights up red and an “ice” end that lights up blue in the dark which gives a bit of added excitement to the game – this is the same feature found in the larger and more expensive Atomic 90″.
The good thing about going above 4ft in size, there’s enough table surface area for kids to practice different shots and begin to improve their skills.
When to go for a 6ft to 7.5ft Air Hockey Table
A 6ft to 7.5ft table is ideal for a family games room, and you have lots of options here when you are looking at these larger tables. The Triumph Lumen-X Lazer costs around $400 and it’s a nice choice if you have enough room for a 6ft table. If you have space for a larger 7.5 table, the fancy multicolor lights, Atomic 90″ comes in at just under $850. But my choice, if you want to read more, would be a 7ft Atomic Blazer (84″) which is roughly $150 cheaper than the 90″. What I love is that it’s completely compatible with one of the Best Table Tennis Conversion Tops out there – the STIGA Duo Table Tennis Conversion Top which means you always have the option to get a custom 2 games in 1 table – and you’ll get change from the deal if you do too.
Now the main thing I want to say is that there’s a huge difference between the playing experience you get on these larger tables in comparison with the smaller ones. Firstly, they’ll allow you to practice all the techniques that professionals use, so you’ll be able to fully develop your skills and take your game to the next level. Secondly, they are generally more solidly built and more suitable for heavy use. But there’s also another advantage in that they are designed to be used with larger-sized, heavier pucks, which are much less likely to fly off the table when you take your shot.
Tables in this size range are also pretty good value for money, when you consider the considerable jump in price when you compare them with a full-sized table.
What About a Multi-Game Air Hockey Table?
Now if you are kitting out your games room and find that choosing a larger table means you won’t have much space left over to play anything else, you might want to consider a multi-game table like the ESPN Sports Air Hockey Game Table, for example, which for around the $500 mark gives you two games in one – table tennis and air hockey.
Just so you know a regulation 3/4 size table tennis table measures 81” x 45”. This one is 80”x 43” so is pretty close in size so you’ll be able to play a decent game.
And don’t forget there’s always the other option of the Atomic Blazer (84″) with the STIGA Duo Table Tennis Conversion Top.
8Ft Tables Air Hockey Tables – for the Seriously Air Hockey Obsessed
8 ft Tables are officially full-size and they are the only tables sanctioned by the United States Air-Table Hockey Association (USAA) for national and world championships competition. So if you are serious about air hockey you might want to consider a full-size table. Air Hockey isn’t an elitist sport, both USAA and AHPA tournaments are open to all skill levels, anyone can register to take part. If you do, you will earn yourself a World Ranking. Read about getting ranked here.
Top Brands to go for if you want one form the approved list are:
- Gold Standard
- Some Dynamo models
- Brunswick (coin model)
How Much Money Should You Sink Into an Air Hockey Table?
Air Hockey tables range from around $70 for a decent small tabletop version up to around $2000, for a good full-size Gold Standard one. The Valley-Dynamo 8ft Pro costs even more – ouch! But gorgeous as it is, it’s way more than most people will need.
Now that being said, I don’t recommend that you cheap out too much when it comes to choosing a table. You’ll regret it if you do, simply because a poorly made table with patchy and unreliable airflow will seriously hamper your playing experience – and that’ll completely put you off playing. It’s also the quickest way to put your kids off playing air hockey if you buy them a table that they find is a bit frustrating to play on.
At the same time, you really don’t need to go overboard – unless you are already a good player or air hockey-obsessed and are planning to compete in national or international championships at some point.
With that in mind let’s take a look at how much you need to be playing for each price point to be worth it. I’ll throw in some examples of a good air hockey table as we get into it.
Why I’m Not Sold on Multi-Player Air Hockey Tables
I’ve left this one till the end, because I have to say I’m not really a fan. I guess if you have 4 super-impatient kids that always want to play at the same time, one of these tables may be your answer and you can block the goals so the game can be played with 4, 3, or 2 players. I kinda think that more often than not the actual scenario would be two players playing on a less than optimal table. Sorry just my two cents.
The only thing I didn’t mention here is that if your table is going to take pride of place in a room in your house – rather than in a basement out of the way or a garage – there are some very nice aesthetically pleasing wooden air hockey tables from brands like PUCK and American Legend. Of the two, Puck is the one to go for. American Legend tables certainly look amazing but there do seem to be a few quality control issues with them.
So there you have it. I hope you found this guide helpful. There’s really not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing an air hockey table, so what you ultimately choose will depend very much on how much time you spend playing, the age of your kids (if you are buying for them), and of course, your available budget.