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Air Hockey Rules

Rules of Air Hockey

Basic Rules 

1. The winner is the first player to score 7 points. 
2. A point is scored against a player when the puck enters their goal, unless play has been suspended or a foul has been called. 
3. Table sides are alternated after each game. 
4. After each point the puck goes to the defending player. 
5. A player may hand serve the puck after it has entered their goal. 
6. A player may only have one mallet touching the surface of play at any time. Violation results in a foul. 
7. The puck may be struck with any part of the mallet. 
8. The puck may not be topped’. Topping’ occurs when a mallet is places on top of the puck. Violation results in a foul. A mallet may be used to bring an airborne puck to the table. 
9. Only one puck may be in play. 
10. The puck may remain on one players side for a total of 7 seconds, during which time the puck must cross the centerline. Violation results in a foul. 
11. When the puck is in contact with any part of the centerline it may be struck by either player. 
12. A player may only stand on their own side of the centerline. 
13. The puck may not be touched by any part of the players body or clothing during play. Violation will result in a foul. 
14. Each player may take a single, ten second time-out per game. This may only be called when the puck is in the players possession or out of play. 
15. A player must indicate a time out clearly. Violation results in a foul. 
16. when a player is scored upon they have ten seconds to return the puck to play. 

Legal Objects 

Sanctioned Tables 
1. All sanctioned tables must meet USAA standards. 
2. Tables must be broken in. 
3. Conditional Approval may be granted by the USAA Board of Directors on a situational basis. Both players must agree to play on any such table. 
4. Tables with long overhead lights are not sanctioned. 


1. Mallets must be approved by game referees as meeting the requirements of the USAA including:
6 oz. or less in weight 
Less than 4-1/16 in diameter. 
Color may be any except the color of the game surface of the table. 
The mallet must be uniform, symmetrical and of the same material. 


1. Only the lexan-yellow’ lexan-red’ and the dynamo green’ may be used. The lexan-yellow’ may be considered standard. 
2. Pucks may not be changed during a game unless both players agree, or the referee has good reason. 
3. Pucks must have at least one layer of white plastic tape on the top side. 

Other Objects 

1. Shields are approved if they are at a right angle to the top of the table and both players agree. 
2. Devices for attaching mallet to hand are legal if they do not affect the puck. 

Beginning the Game 

1. A coin toss is first used to determine starting sides. The winning player chooses their side. 
2. Every match begins with a face-off. A face-off is when the puck is placed flat on the centerline by the referee. The players can advance to one inch of the puck. As soon as the referee releases the puck the face off begins. 
The referee must release the puck without causing motion. If excessive motion is caused the referee may redo it. 
If a player connects with the puck before release a false, start has occurred. Each player is allowed one false start before possession is awarded to the opponent. 
The winning player begins the first and all odd numbered rounds. The losing player begins even numbered rounds. 
3. When a player scores a point or gains possession of the puck they have won the face-off 
4. Every game after the first begins when the referee declares in play’. 

In and Out of Play 

1. The puck is in play if it is touching the table’s playing surface, the walls of the rails, the front or interior of the goals and the players mallets. Any other object touching the puck will result in it being ruled out of play. 
2. A puck which graves the top of the rail is out of play, even if it returns to the table’s surface. If the puck bounces off a shield and returns to the table, the puck is out of play. 
3. A time out is only to be granted if the puck is out of play, or a player demonstrates control of the puck. A time out has only been granted after it has been officially called. 
4. A player attempting to call a second time out, except for reason of injury, receives an automatic conduct warning. 
5. If interference, defined as obvious noise, distraction, or actions by either player or spectator, occurs during a shot which scores the point does not count and the puck returns to the player who possessed it prior to interference. 
6. When the puck leaves the playing surface and contacts anything except a player’s mallet, play is suspended until the referee returns it. 


1. If the puck stops in the goal after tilting a point has been scored. If a puck stops in the goal and does not lift the player may attempt to work the puck out using legal methods, or may hand the puck to the opponent. 
2. If a puck rebounds out of the goal a point has not been scored, unless that puck rebounds back into the goal. 
3. If a puck hits a player’s hand on the way to the goal the referee may decide if the puck would have scored without contact. 
4. If a point is scored after the table loses power, the point counts if the puck was struck prior to power loss. 
5. If a player takes a shot and drops their mallet they are permitted to stop the puck entering their own goal with hands or body. If a defensive player loses their mallet they may not use hands or body to stop the shot. 
6. If a player commits a foul and is scored upon during the same play the foul is nullified and the point stands. 

Penalties and Fouls 

1. The penalty for a foul is immediate forfeiture of the puck. 
2. The penalty for a technical foul is a free shot taken by the innocent player. After a free shot connects with the opponents end of the table or the goal play begins again. 
3. Any unnecessary or excessive delay of gameplay is a foul at referee’s discretion. 
4. A foul will not be called if the puck rises from the table and touches a player. 
5. If an offensive player’s shot hits the hand of a defensive player, but does not change in speed or direction then no foul will occur. This is at referee’s discretion. 
6. Palming which occurs while the puck is moving toward the goal is Goal Tending. This results in a technical foul against the palming player. 
7. If a player loses control of their mallet while the puck is in play the player commits a foul. This is at the referee’s discretion. 
8. A shot that results in the puck leaving the playing surface constitutes a foul on the shooter. 
9. Any player crossing the centerline commits a foul. 
10. Any player committing distractive noise, defined as talking to an opponent, spectator, referee as oneself, or excessive intentional noise making, may be punished by a conduct warning. 
11. If both the puck and mallet of an offensive player are on their own side the defensive player may not strike either. The offensive player may not strike the defensive players mallet while it is on its own side. Violation will result in a foul. 
12. A player’s mallet extending partially, but not completely over the line during a legal shot will not result in a foul. 
13 A mallet may not cross the centerline completely. 
14. A player cannot toss the puck into the opponent’s goal during a hand serve. If they do no point will be scored and the defensive player will be granted a hand serve. 
15. If the defensive player strikes the puck with forward momentum, causing the puck to leave the table, this is charging the puck’. The offensive player regains possession of the puck. Causing the puck to leave the table without forward momentum will not be charged. 
16. If the referee decides excessive force was used by the defensive player in knocking the puck off the table a foul will be called. 

Player Conduct 

1. A foul will be called upon the second unsportsmanlike conduct warning in the match. A technical foul will be incurred upon the third warning, the fourth will result in forfeiture of the game. A fifth warning results in forfeiture of the match. Actions that should receive conduct warnings include but are not limited to. 
a) Excessive arguing with the referee 
b) Cursing at the referee 
c) Verbal or physical assault 
d) Actions that endanger spectators or property 
e) Taunting of another player 
f) Intentional distracting noise 
g) Any action that discredits the sport, as decided by the USAA board. 
2. The referee may issue multiple warnings during a single action, even if this should cause immediate forfeiture, provided the penalty is warranted. 

Player Rights 

1. Players in a challenge match may play without a referee at their own risk 
2. Unless agreed otherwise beforehand either player may request a special time out for the referee to clean sweat from the table. 
3. If a referee engages in questionable behavior a player may protest to the head referee or the tournament committee 
4. An appeal may be made by either player not in agreement with the referee’sdecision to the relevant authority. 
5. If a player desires spectators to be quieter during play they should ask the referee to request quiet from the crowd. 
6. During a challenge match players have a maximum of one minute between games. Either player may choose to take one 2-minute break each set, extended during emergencies. 
7. A player may change mallets at any time. 
8. A player may wait for a puck to stop flipping on its edge. 

Referee Authority and Responsibility 

1. Each game in a USAA Sanctioned Tournament shall be refereed in a fair and sportsmanlike manner. 
2. The referee has the sole authority to impose penalties, enforce rules or declare in play’, time in’, or time out’. 
3. A referee must not coach a player whom they are refereeing. 
4. The referee will signal the winner of a face-off with their arm. 
5. When the game is out of play because of a foul the referee will ask the defending player if they are ready before announcing in play’. In case of excessive delay by the player the referee may ignore this rule. 
6. The referee has the final word on any decision during the game. 
7. Referees may call an official time-out if warranted. 
8. A player must never assume a foul will be called and stop play. The puck remains in play until the referee suspends play, and then decides the nature of the foul and the moment of play in which it occurred. 
9. if a puck is flipping on its edge the seven second rule will be suspended until the puck rests flat. 
10. If a player causes damage to the table the player must cease use of whatever method of play causes damage. 
11. The referee shall state the score of the game, game count, and set count if the result changes upon a point scored. 
12. A referee may choose not to call a foul if the innocent player plays the puck before play is suspended. 

Tournament Procedures 

1. Players have a maximum of two minutes between games, except during emergencies. 
2. Players may take a break between sets of maximum 15 minutes, except during emergencies. 
3. Players have until 15 minutes after a match is called to report to the referee or tournament direction. If neither player reports within 10 minutes the next match is called. If one player reports a point is lost per minute after 15 minutes. 
4. If a player has been informed personally that their match is up for play they have only five minutes to report to the table. 
5. Players who do not referee a match they are responsible to referee face penalty of conduct warning or more severe penalties. The referee has a maximum of 5 minutes break if they have just finished a match. 
6. Players are granted permission to watch three games of an ongoing match late on the last day of a tournament even if the time for their match has come. 
7. Players must inform a Head Referee if they are leaving the tournament premises and provide an explanation. 
8. A player who forfeits out of a tournament is not entitled to prizes or prize money. 
9. The USAA has the right to photograph or videotape tournament play. Extreme lighting or flash photography may be forbidden. 
10. The USAA and associated bodies are not responsible for loss resulting from injury during, before or after sanctioned events. 
11. During a USAA Swiss event, a player has 5 minutes to get to their match table after a match has been called. If they fail to do so they lose one game per 5 minutes. 
12. Sanctioning of USAA Tournaments requires a majority Board vote. 

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