Air Hockey is game between two people and requires a low-friction air hockey table, two player-held strikers, and a puck. What is key to the game is the smooth and slippery surface of the table allowing the puck to glide in a straight line at a near-constant velocity. Apart from the big playing surface, there is a surrounding rail to prevent the puck and paddles from leaving the table. At the ends there are narrow slots that act as the goals with pockets for the puck return. In order to save manufacturing costs, the material is normally plastic. The only sanctioned tables for competitions, are 8 feet in length. Pucks and strikers also are required to be of a specific size. Tables found with lights on the playing surface and painted rails are not approved for competitions. These are also normally smaller in size and the game is referred to as mini air hockey. The striker is also called a goalie, a paddle or a mallet, has a flat surface and a nub to hold onto as a player uses it to strike the puck. For competitions, the puck is required to be made of polycarbonate resin. The shape is a flat, round disc, but these can also be other shapes (triangle, hexagon, octagon, or square).
As a competitive game, air hockey is a relatively new sport. It was invented by a small group of employees of Brunswick Billiards. They started the project in 1969 and after an initial pause, patents were filed for a game with a focus for an abstract version of ice hockey. It was decided back then that the game would appeal more to a larger market and air hockey was marketed to the general public. It took very little time for it to become an immediate success and approximately five years later, substantial interest was generated to take the game to a competitive level. The first organisation formed for the sport was by the Houston Air Hockey Assocation in 1973 and soon after that, the Texas Air-Hockey Players Association. Codified rules were established, and the sport was promoted through local tournaments in the Houston area. In 1975 J. Phillip Arnold formed the United States Air-Table Hockey Association (USAA), which also became an official sanctioning body. This also ensured that playing standards and rules were now of the highest standards. Since the inception of USAA, the organisation has been overseeing one national-level or World Championship each year.
In March 2015, the Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA) was established providing players with an additional organisation to oversee and manage the sport. In July 2015 AHPA crowned their first world champion and the youngest in the history of the sport. Today professional air hockey is played by a small community of players based mainly in the States, Spain, Russia and the Czech Republic.