Air hockey can be a chaotic game that most people wouldn’t figure required a strategy. If this were the case, anyone would be good at it and air hockey wouldn’t be considered an official sport. There are a couple of tips and tricks a player can use to help them win more frequently.
Air Hockey Defense
No matter what game you play your defense is going to be just as important as your offense and is a good place to start with any sport or game. For air hockey you need to use the most effective way to move your mallet in front of the puck. For professional players they use a methods called the triangle method.
The Triangle Method
This method requires very little movement of the mallet, covers the most area, and uses easier arm movement. Most amateur players like to move their mallets back and forth in front of their goal but any good player can quickly find holes in your defense and get a shot in from either side of the mallet.
- To start your defense position, place your mallet in front of the goal out to about the first screw on your table (about 6 inches or more from your goal).
- Now imagine that the two ends of your goal finish the other two points of your triangle. The lines leading from your mallet to the two sides are what will make up your triangle.
- Move your mallet along these lines for the most effective defense. This method will especially help with the very common bank shot as well as the straight shot.
- You’re either pulling your arm back or adjusting the angle of your elbow rather than running your whole arm back in forth in front of your goal. If you’re a beginner this is definitely one of the first things you’ll need to work on.
Tracking the Puck
Tracking the puck is required for the triangle method to work properly. This means determining where the puck will go as well as moving your mallet with the puck. Both of these skills will be needed to set up for your retaliation.
Pucks are very fast moving objects so following where it goes and where you think it will end up will take some time but it’s not impossible. Once you’ve mastered doing this you can practice getting the puck back in your control.
Because placing your mallet on top of the puck is considered illegal you’ll need an alternative way of stopping the puck. This is where your tracking skills come in and where you’ll be working on your ability to move the mallet with the puck.
When the puck is coming at your you want to get your mallet into the track the puck is taking. Once the puck is just about to hit your mallet you’ll want to draw the mallet back quickly so that the impact of the puck and mallet don’t cause the puck to bounce back. Once you’ve gained control you can make your offense move.
Air Hockey Offensive Shots
In air hockey there is a large variety of shots and trick shots you can use to effectively score points and it’s good to use them correctly. When I first started off playing air hockey my strategy was to hit the puck hard and in wild directions and pray that it would eventually make it into the goal. It worked sometimes but it’s better to use predictable shots so you don’t risk the puck going into your own goal.
1. Straight Shot
The first shot any player should know how to do is the straight shot. This is exactly how it sounds and works out beautifully because it isn’t often used in a non professional setting. Straight shots are made by shooting the puck directly into your opponent's goal.
This shot is often used as a counter move in the professional setting. Because there’s a short period between the point players hit the puck and when they get back into their defense position this is the best time to strike. Instead of stopping the puck you can take this opportunity to strike the puck as it’s coming at you and directly into your opponent’s goal.
2. Bank Shots
The next shot is the bank shot. This shot can be done a couple of different ways. There are two main types of bank shots; the over bank shot and the under bank shot. It’s important to remember that whichever shot you decide to do you want to do it with the front of your mallet rather than the side. This is a common mistake in all beginner players.
Under Bank Shot
The under bank shot is a less effective shot than the over bank shot. This shot is one of the most used shots and makes it easy for your opponents to predict the direction of the puck. You can perform this shot by bouncing the puck off of the side of your half of the table.
Over Bank Shot
Although the over bank shot is more effective and unpredictable it is also a little bit harder. This bank shot is performed by hitting the puck against the side of the table on your opponent's side. It’s harder for your opponent to track the direction because by the time it bounces against the edge it’s already so close to their goal.
3. Cross Straight Shot
The cross straight shot acts as a kind of trick shot. The purpose of this move is to confuse your opponent into think it's going to be a bank shot but then shooting it directly into their goal when their defense is open.
To complete this shot you want to push the puck sideways as if you're going to perform a bank but without giving it enough power to cross the center line. Follow behind the puck with your mallet so that you can hit it directly into their goal once it's close to the center line.
Avoid Double Bank Shots
Unlike pool tables, the edges of an air hockey table absorb a lot of the kinetic energy from the puck which slows it down. This is why you want to avoid shots that have the puck bounce more than once in a back and forth motion across the table. You might as well hand the puck over to your opponent.
4. Common Trick Shot
One reason the puck would hit the edge of the table more than once is the common trick shot. The most used trick shot in air hockey is by hitting it into your opponents corner so that it ricochets back and then making your scoring shot. Too much puck movement will confuse your opponent and they won’t be ready for that final shot.
The methods mentioned above are moves that you should always keep in mind. However, not all techniques are so hard to remember. Some basic things to keep in mind are your posture while playing as well as your grip on your mallet.
The handle on an air hockey puck is something that is rarely used in the world of professional air hockey. Often times, players will place two or three of their fingers into the alley between the handle and the outer edge of the mallet. This allows easy wrist movement rather than having to move your whole arm all the time.
Anyone who is in the middle of an air hockey game is going to be moving around a lot. Some shots require you to be elsewhere around your half of the table to work out the best. In some instances there is a proper stance a player should take.
The most common instance is when you’re in defense mode. When you’re defending your goal, your left leg should be behind you, your right in front, and both of your knees slightly bent. Your body shouldn’t be leaning over the table. This will allow you to move more and your view of the whole table will be expanded.
Can You Block the Goal in Air Hockey?
If you’re protecting your goal with your mallet then of course you can block your goal. However, you won’t ever be blocking your goal completely because there is always adequate space on one side or on both sides of your mallet to make a shot.
You can not block your goal with anything other than your mallet. In fact the use of any other object including your arm, cloths, or other things is illegal in air hockey and you will lose a point. The best way to protect your goal legally is by using the triangle method mentioned above.
Can You Cross the Middle Line in Air Hockey?
You are not allowed to cross the middle line into your opponent’s side of the table. Not even your mallet is allowed to cross this middle line and doing so will get you a foul. Players are allowed to move around anywhere as long as it is on their side of the table.