Recently, my friends and I went to an arcade and we decided to hold a little air hockey match. Watching how different people played I saw a couple of variations on how people held their air hockey mallets. I decided to do some research on how you should hold an air hockey mallet.
Professional air hockey players place their index, middle, and ring finger into the alley between the back of the handle and the outer edge of the mallet. The middle finger knuckle should be against the handle of the mallet.
When you first see an air hockey mallet it looks as if the player is supposed to grip it by the handle. That is how they were designed to be used but as the game got more popular it became known that the most effective way to play air hockey wasn’t by holding onto the handle.
By holding the mallet this way it allows for better wrist movement rather than having to move your whole arm around. You can also move adjust the mallet’s position by moving your index and ring fingers.
The amount of force you exert on the mallet also makes a difference. You don’t want to put too much pressure on the mallet because that will create friction between the table and the mallet which will slow down your movement. A grip that is too loose might cause you to lose the puck during a game and your hits might not be as accurate.
Just like any other sport the way you stand and position your body will make a big difference in how you play a game. There are different stances you will take while you’re on offense because hitting the puck requires a lot of movement.
Defense is a little different. The way you stand can have an affect on your ability to guard your goal as well as your ability to see all of the table. If you’re just starting to learn the game of air hockey then it’s important to start off with these basics.
First off, you need to move your dominant foot in front of your body while your other leg is behind you with your knees slightly bent. This will give you more movement in your torso and allow your arm to move back and forth better. Your dominant leg should be on the same half of your body as the arm that is in control of the mallet.
When you’re switching to offense you can move you non-dominant leg back forward. You still need the torso movement but what’s more important is your ability to reach out and putting your feet at the same level will help you with this. Your knees should still be slightly bent.
The way you lean also changes when you switch from defense to offense. During defense you shouldn’t be leaning at all. Leaning forward makes it more difficult to move backwards and puts you in a charge-now-questions-later mental state. It's not all about getting control of the puck back but protecting your goal from the puck as well. Protection must be your first priority.
You need to be able to reach the puck but you also need full vision of the table which means your body should be completely straight. You should also be on the balls of your feet so that you can move forward when you know where the puck is going.
During offense, most of your weight should be on your dominant leg to allow a greater reach of your dominant arm. The amount you lean should be based on comfort. You want to allow as little room as possible for the puck to move so that it becomes harder for your opponent to follow the puck but you can’t go over the center line.
You’ll need to stop the puck in air hockey if you want to make the most accurate shots. However, the way you do it could potentially get you a foul. It is illegal to lift your mallet and place it on top of the puck. So how else would you stop the puck?
It takes a lot of skill but really the only way to stop a puck is by moving your mallet with it while it’s moving. When you draw your mallet back just when the puck is going to hit it the puck won’t ricochet off the mallet. After you’ve managed to stop the puck you can make your shot.
How Do You Block the Puck in Air Hockey?
Blocking the puck can only be done with the mallet and not any other object including parts of your body or clothes. The most effective way to block the puck is by using what is called the triangle method.
Start with your mallet about 6 inches in front of your goal. Picture two lines connecting your mallet to the two edges of the goal. These are the tracks you will move your mallet on. This technique is used by professional air hockey players.