The game of air hockey, as we know it today, was not created until 1972. Bob Lemieux, another employee of Brunswick and an avid hockey fan, conceptualized a game using two mallets to knock the flattened disks into the small slits on either far-side of the table. The air kept the disks perpetually moving and offered similar effects of a hockey puck on ice. He then created detectors in the slits that recorded when a goal was scored. Air hockey was born.The original air hockey table patent references Lemieux, as well as, Kenrick and Crossman as creators of the game.
Air Hockey History: Popularizing the GameThe game of air hockey became an almost instant gaming success, namely at carnivals and in college game rooms. Despite the growing success however, Brunswick soon became displeased by the image of air hockey as a carnival attraction and set out to legitimatize the game as a serious sport. in 1974, Brunswick held the first ever Air Hockey World Championship at the Holiday Inn in New York City.
Regional champions attended to compete for a $5000 purse. For the event, in a further attempt to make air hockey legitimate, legendary sportscaster Marv Albert announced the play-by-play, and NHL hockey star Derek "The Turk" Sanderson attended the event as a special guest. In all accounts, the event was a success, and an interest in air hockey tournaments swelled through the 70s.
In 1975, the United States Air-Table Hockey Association was formed by Philip Arnold, an avid player, to uniform rules and implement regulations. It is still the authority and governing body of air hockey to this day. The USAA has hosted an United States Championship and World Championship every year since its inception. It is interesting to note that Philip Arnold has never won the World Championships, but he has come in second 4 times.
Air Hockey Starts to DeflateIf there was ever a dark time in air hockey history, it was in the mid-80s with the advent of arcade games. With the onset of computer technology and gaming in arcades, air hockey quickly took a back seat to the new games.
Air hockey may have died out if it wasn't for one air hockey fan, Mark Robbins. Robbins took out an ad in a trade magazine asking people to donate their old air hockey tables. He was afraid that company's would completely stop manufacturing. He collected tables from across the country and remodeled them in the original Brunswick design. He then convinced U.S. Billiards, the only remaining air hockey table manufacturer, to create new, better quality tables in the original design.
In 1985, Robbins also convinced Dynamo Corporation, a foosball table maker, to begin creating tournament-quality air hockey tables. In that first year, only an estimated 100 were sold, but by the time he stopped his effort to revive the sport in 1993, the company had begun selling thousands.
Just like most sports, air hockey history is made up of individuals that were passionate enough to keep it growing. Because of this, it is now as popular as ever, 40 years later.
~Zain on the East Coast
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