Ice hockey is an American institution. It may have started life elsewhere, but it’s now part of the national psyche. As American as apple pie, hamburgers, and Hershey, ice hockey is the muscle car of the sporting world. It’s all about speed, precision, and power.
Played on an ice (the clue is in the name) rink, hockey, as it’s known in Europe and Canada, is a game in which two opposing teams of six players each try to score as many goals as possible in order to secure victory.
Incredibly physical, ice hockey is famous the world over for the violent confrontations that often occur during a match, and almost as well known for fighting as the skill, determination, and dedication of its skaters.
After beginning to find, and establish, an audience and fanbase in the nineteen sixties, ice hockey became a cultural phenomenon in the early eighties following the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
Often referred to as the ‘miracle on ice’, as the Olympics drew to a close, the US ice hockey team beat the USSR to become gold medalists and world champions. That was the moment that put ice hockey on the map and led to it becoming almost as popular as the holy triumvirate. Baseball, football, and basketball.
With its popularity in the ascendancy, it was only a matter of time until the spectators began searching for a way to play ice hockey at home. But if you can’t skate and you don’t have an ice rink in the back garden, trying to hold home-based hockey games can be at best problematic and at worst, impossible.
It’s around this point that one of these desperate fans figured out that air hockey, the classic arcade based table game, was just a thinly disguised two-player version of the ice-based version. Word of mouth is a powerful social tool, and in less time than it took Wayne Gretzky to score a hat trick, air hockey followed it’s ice-bound cousins lead and found its own variety of fame.
Invented by a bunch of bored Brunswick Billiards employees during the opening years of the nineteen seventies, air hockey is a two-player game that utilizes a frictionless surface board in which the participants attempt to score points using stickers or paddles to guide a puck into their opponent’s goal. It’s a simple game that takes a lifetime to master.
It wasn’t long before the arcade version started to find its way into the homes of the hockey faithful and when it did, air hockey slowly started to evolve beyond its humble origins. As the game became faster, the tables it was played on began to change. They became sleeker and more advanced to accommodate the rapidly changing game. Air hockey had arrived and it was here to stay.
Founded by Bill Rasmussen after his dismissal from the New England Whalers, sports broadcaster ESPN has ice hockey in its DNA. When it comes to all things hockey-related, ESPN has got your back. They’re the enforcer that’ll happily spend half a game in the penalty box to make sure that you score and keep on scoring. ESPN knows hockey like you know the back of your hand.
So, when it comes to looking for an air hockey table, you’re going to want one that’s endorsed by a name you can trust. You’re going to want an ESPN table. But it isn’t as easy as just picking the first one that you see, as air hockey tables come in different sizes and feature a plethora of functions.
That’s why we’ve come up with a list of five of the best to help you decide which ESPN air hockey table is the right one for you. Grab your stick, it’s game time…
OUR TOP PICK
Hockey is a tough game and tables don’t come much tougher than this steel legged ESPN monster. As hardy as the players who hit the ice, this table doesn’t have any unnecessary bits and pieces so there’s less to break down which only adds to its durability and reliability.
Designed with precision in mind and easy to put together, this all-steel table also features a laminated surface, or as it’s known in air hockey circles, playing field.
And the holes that litter that playing field to let the air-flow through them are evenly located so that you don’t have to worry about anything and can just keep on playing.
Speaking of airflow, the motor that powers it through this table is a 120-volt beast that’ll pump and pump and pump some more so that you can play and play and play some more. It’ll keep on pumping for as long as you want to keep on playing.
And the electronic scorecard will keep you focused on the game and your opponent as it records the goals and time so that you don’t have to.
- This table is tougher than the 1974 Philadelphia Flyers. Built to take a licking and keep on ticking this table doesn’t know when to quit. And it never will.
- The electronic scoreboard means that you don’t have to waste any time worrying about who scored what and when, as it does it all for you. It does all the hard work so that you can just keep on playing.
- It isn’t just the table that’s strong, the air pump is too. When it starts to pump, it doesn’t want to stop. You’ve got to love good airflow. Especially when it comes to air hockey.
- You don’t have to work construction to put it together. It’s an easily assembled table with a straight forward set of instructions that makes IKEA guides look like brain surgery.
- Compared to the rest of the table, the paddles are a little weak and flimsy. You’ll burn through them quickly, so it’d be wise to have some spares on the sidelines.
- Quality comes at a price and this table isn’t a low-cost model. If you’re buying on a budget, you’d be better off starting somewhere else.
This is the table for the air hockey fan who wants a little more bang, and variety, for their buck. When you’re tired of air hockey (which will probably never happen, but like Sean Connery you should never say never), this table has got you covered.
It comes with a complete table tennis conversion that’s easily fitted when (and if) you ever feel like a change of sporting scenery.
As for the hockey table, it features a heavy-duty air pump and fan and built-in electronic scorer that takes care of everything so that you can concentrate on what’s important. Playing hockey.
And it also comes with everything that you need to play both - the paddles, the discs, the bats and the balls. As soon as you’ve put it together, you can start playing hockey. And tennis. If you like that sort of thing,
- It’s a two for one gaming table that’ll please just about everyone and provide endless hours of entertainment. Tired of hockey? Play tennis. Tired of tennis? Play hockey. With this table, you can do both.
- A combination of powerful air pump and electronic scoring means you can stay focused on the game. Unless you’re playing table tennis. Then you’ll have to keep score yourself.
- Some reviews are not so great and highlight quality issues and the fact that maybe the fit and size of table tennis conversion could be a little better. This is a shame, as this dual game table is a great fusion of two fun games.
- The price. It’s not exactly cheap entertainment, but you get what you pay for. However, if some of the reviews are to be believed, then you’ll almost certainly end up paying too much for what you get with this table.
If you’re tied by your budget, and most of us are these days, this Premium Compact table is the solution to your fiduciary means versus air hockey necessity problems. At around two hundred and fifty dollars, it’s a means-tested table that won’t you need to make sacrifices for.
Don’t believe everything that you read on the internet, size isn’t an issue. At least it isn’t as far as this table is concerned. At five foot, it’s compact enough to fit in most apartments. You don’t need a utility room or a man cave to play air hockey. You just need this table.
Just because it’s smaller, it doesn’t mean that this table doesn’t do everything that its full-size competition does. It does. Sidebar LED scorers and timers and a pretty powerful fan mean you’ll have just as much hockey fun with this table as you would with a much bigger model.
- Size really is important and this table isn’t too big and it isn’t too small. It’s just right.
- Talking of size, it’s the perfect way to get your kids interested in, and playing, air hockey. It’s a great way to introduce your brood to the game.
- See that price? What’s not to like about that? That’s the kind of deal that everyone loves
- It’s the little table that could and can easily face-off with the major league tables and give them a run for their money.
- The age-old story of getting what you pay for rears its ugly head again. Reviews have flagged build quality and durability as an issue to watch out for, which is a shame as this table is a competition killer that completely levels the playing field.
Looking like it came straight off the set of ‘Tron’, this black and silver behemoth is not only aesthetically pleasing, thanks to its overhead scoring system, crisp and ridiculously sharp sound effects, and frictionless playing field, it’s also incredibly addictive. Once you start playing on it, you won’t be able to stop.
The famed ESPN muscular air pump and fan keep the table running at a speed that’ll keep the most ardent air hockey devotee on his or her toes. Fire this table up and you’ll spend endless hours trying to keep up with whoever you’re facing.
Its overhead scoring bar makes keeping track of your victories easier than it’s ever been and it’s location means that you don’t have to strain your back trying to see how many goals you’re up by in the middle of the game.
Built of steel, this table is harder to hurt than Gordie Howe and it’ll have a playing career that’ll rival that of the infamous Red Wings ice warrior.
- The scoring system that this table uses is a unique, and much welcome, selling point. It doesn’t get in the way of play, doesn’t slow games down and the addition of the sound effects means that you’ll feel like you’re out on the ice every single time you play.
- They don’t make them much tougher than this table and by making it more metal than Ronnie James Dio, ESPN made sure that this table was as tough as tough air hockey tables come. Durable and reliable, this table will keep on scoring long after other tables have given up the ghost.
- Assembly isn’t simple or straight forward and might take, if you’re less technically gifted, a while. But nothing is easy and the best things are worth spending some extra time doing. Or at least that’s what you’ll end up telling yourself when you’re stuck in the middle of putting it together
- It’s priced like every other, except for the compact premium, ESPN air hockey table. Cheap isn’t a word that ESPN’s lexicon understands. It’s an expensive table but you get what you pay for.
We’ve saved the best for last. This Premium Touch Screen table is the big enchilada of ESPN’s air hockey range. It’s touch screen scoring system allows you to jump straight into any game with minimal set-up time and even less fuss.
Fully equipped with the usual monstrous ESPN 120 volt air pump and fan and beautifully smooth playing field this premium table will keep the puck in play for hours. The only problem you’ll have to worry about is trying to keep up with it.
A seven and half foot colossus, this table will instantly become the centerpiece of any room that it calls home. It takes up a lot of room, but that’s a small price to pay for something this beautiful.
- The touch screen scoring system is a thing of futuristic joy and is beyond easy to get to grips with and use. And it doesn’t hold play up or get in the way which earns this table a double thumbs up from us.
- It’s jaw dropping gorgeous. Come on you’re not seriously going to try and tell us that it hasn’t stolen a little piece of your heart are you? You know it has and so do we.
- Those assembly woes associated with some other ESPN tables? They’ve been circumvented with this premium model. A couple of everyday tools and an hour of your time is all that it takes to put it together.
- The lack of bracing struts on this table's legs mean that it isn’t quite as sturdy as other ESPN tables .This can lead to stability problems if you get carried away or a little too excited while playing - and who doesn’t? We all do. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
- It’s the top of the range, stand-out air hockey table in the ESPN line and it’s priced accordingly. It will empty your pocketbook and drain your bank account. But you can’t take it with you, so you may as well spend your money on having a good time while you can. And this table is a good time. A really, really good time.
Best ESPN Air Hockey Tables Buying Guide
Air Hockey Questions That You Might Want To Ask Before You Buy A Table
While none of the tables on this list are what you’d call small, some are bigger than others. Measure whatever space you have twice, because you’ll only be buying once. Size is important, it matters.
Make sure you have the space for whichever table on the list it is that you want. If you don’t, choose again. Second choice is better than no choice. And no air hockey table
Are You Serious?
What kind of air hockey player are you? A serious devotee of the game who wants to spend all of his or her free time hunched over a table grinding your friends into dust with victory after victory?
Or a more casual, take it as it comes type who might squeeze a game in every now and then? Does your table have to have all the bells and whistles that it’s possible for it to have or will a standard table fill that air hockey sized hole in your life?
Can I Put It Together?
Well, can you? Can you assemble your potential table or do you know someone who can? What level of difficulty are you happy to deal with when it comes to said assembly?
It might seem a trivial question to ask yourself, even a little silly, but as we’ve pointed out, size matters and the small things are important. After all, you don’t want anything to spoil your enjoyment of your air hockey table do you?
It’s A Money Thing
Set your budget and stick to it. Decide what you want, and need, from a table and spend that and not a penny more. There’s an ESPN air hockey table for every player and one designed to suit every budget. You don’t have to break the bank to have fun. Choose your table and drop the puck. It’s face-off time…