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REGELN "Air Hockey"

Air Hockey Tournament Rules

Updated July 2000


SECTION I. Referee's Authority and Responsibility

A. Referee's Authority and Responsibility

1. Each game in an Official Air-Hockey Competition (i.e. U.S.A.A. sanctioned) shall be refereed. Players of a Challenge Match may play without a referee at their own risk of unresolvable controversies. The referee will act as an unbiased observer insuring that the game is played in a correct, fair, and sportsmanlike manner. He/she has the authority to declare IN PLAY, TIME IN, or TIME OUT. He/she also has the power to impose penalties and enforce all the rules of the sport.

2. The referee must never coach a player whom he/she is refereeing. If a referee commits such an act, the opposing player may protest to a Head Referee or ultimately to the Tournament Committee for a decision.

3. The referee shall verbally state the score of the game after each point scored. He/she shall also verbally declare the game count of the set after each game is completed, and set count after each set, if applicable.

4. When the game is out of play as a result of a foul the referee will ask the player not in possession of the puck if that player is ready before the referee announces "IN PLAY" (or "TIME IN"). In case of any excessive delay by the player not in possession of the puck to give an affirmative indication to the referee that he/she is ready the referee may proceed to put puck IN PLAY. (cl#3) The referee must place a puck that is off the table back into play by either physically releasing it or by acknowledging the release of   the player.

5. (1978 IV.A.1.) The referee has the final word on any decision during the game that is in adherence to the rules. He/she may  consult others if he/she wishes to do so.

SECTION II. Legal Objects and Bounds of Play

A. Legal Objects of Play

1.(1978 I.A.-I.A.4.) Mallets (strikers) must be approved by game referees as meeting requirements of U.S.A.A. Weight must be 6  oz. or less. Diameter must be less than 4-1/16". Color may be any except that the outside rim must be of a different color than game surface of table. Devices for attaching mallet to hand (i.e. bands, straps, handles, & gloves) are legal as long as they do not  affect the puck during play. (Cl #2 and 1995 Littleton Meeting) No mallet may be altered by sloping the playing surface in order to create an angled striking or defending surface, and the mallet must consist of the same material and be uniform and symmetrical throughout its circumference.

2. (1997 Houston) A player may play with only one mallet on the playing surface at one time.

3 (1997 Houston) A player is allowed to change mallets at any time during play.

4. (Clarification #1) Two pucks are approved by USAA for sanctioned events: the "lexan-red" and the "lexan-yellow." The "lexanyellow" will be used unless both players agree to use the other approved puck. Pucks may not be changed during a game unless  both players agree or unless the Referee insists due to clear unplayability of the puck. Such a change in pucks must, if possible, be to the same kind of puck.

a. Only one puck may be in play at a given moment.
b. Pucks must have at least one layer of white plastic tape on the top side. (1995 Littleton Meeting) Pucks with more than one layer of tape may be used only if both players agree.

5. (1996 Houston) All sanctioned tables must meet USAA standards and be broken in. Approved Air-Hockey tables by the  USAA are the Dynamo Brown, Blue tops and Purple tops, Brunswick Blue tops(all full-sized models). Conditional approval means that both players must agree to play.

6. Shields are approved for play if they are at a right angle to the top of the table and both players agree to play with them.

B. (Clarification #26)The legal bounds of play within which or in contact of which the puck may be legally IN PLAY are the table's playing surface, the walls of the rails, the front faces of the goals, the interiors of the goals, and the player's mallets. For the puck to  touch any other objects, while it is IN PLAY, is to place the puck Out of Bounds and therefore instantly Out of Play, by interference,  or by a foul, except in circumstances where a foul is nullified. (Clarification #12)A puck which grazes the top of the rail is out of play  even if it returns to the table surface. If the puck bounces off a shield and returns to the table, the puck is out of play.


A. Beginning the Game

1. (1996 Houston) Every official match begins with a face-off. A coin toss is used to determine starting sides. The player winning the coin toss chooses which side to begin on. The winner of the face-off will begin games 3, 5 and 7 with the puck. His opponent will begin the games 2, 4 and 6 with the puck.

2. Players will alternate game-beginning serves and table sides before each game of each match, after the first.

3. (CL #3) The game begins when the referee calls first "TIME IN" after ascertaining that both players are ready. In case of any excessive delay by either player to give an affirmative indication of their readiness, the referee will proceed to call "TIME IN".


1.a. (1978 II.E.3) Each player may take one ten second or shorter time-out per game.
b. (CL #8) A player may exercise his/her TIME-OUT only when the puck is in his/her possession or not in play.
c. A player must make a clear indication of TIME-OUT so that the referee understands the player's intention.

2. (1995 Littleton Meeting) When the puck is IN PLAY, the referee should only grant a TIME-OUT if the player calling TIME-OUT demonstrates control of the puck. A puck breaking the vertical plane of the goal face can never be considered controlled. A player must never assume that the referee has granted his/her TIME-OUT and should therefore stay at the ready (without fouling)
until the referee officially calls "TIME-OUT."

3. (1995 Littleton Meeting) A player calling an additional TIME-OUT after his first receives an automatic "conduct warning" (see section IV) from the referee. The referee should announce "TIME-OUT," issue the warning by announcing "conduct warning - extra TIME-OUT," and immediately call "TIME-IN." If the non-offending player was not in possession of the puck, the referee should ask that player if he/she is ready before announcing "TIME-IN." A referee may suspend this penalty if the offending player attempts to call an extra TIME-OUT because of injury.

4. (1978 II.E.4) Referee may call an official time-out of a reasonable duration if he agrees that the situation warrants it (i.e. sanding puck, interferences, emergencies).

5. (1978 II.C.5) When the puck leaves the playing surface and contacts anything except a player's mallet, play is suspended until the puck is put back into play by the referee. True, even if it touches top of flat rail surface.

SECTION IV. Penalties, Fouls, Face-Offs

A. Penalties and Fouls

1. (1978 IV.B.1) Foul: The penalty for a foul is forfeiture of the puck.

2. (1978 IV.B.2) Technical Foul: The penalty for a technical foul is a free shot taken by the innocent player at the unprotected goal of the guilty player. After a free shot, play immediately begins when the puck either scores, rebounds from the goal, touches the end of the table (not sides), or comes to a rest on the playing surface. All free shots must be legal.

3. (1978 IV.B.4) If a foul occurs and the innocent player plays the puck before the referee has time to suspend play and grant him possession of the puck, the referee may choose not to call the foul. (1997 Houston) In the case of a centerline or topping violation, the referee shall NOT stop play if the innocent player gains immediate possession of the puck.

4. (1978 II.E.1) Unnecessary or excessive delay of game is considered a foul and loss of puck results. Stalling is included in this ruling of delay (referee decision).

5. (1978 II.D.6) Referees should caution players to desist from striking pucks which are obviously spinning top-like on table. Foul may be called. (Such pucks may be kept on the table by use of the mallet.)

6. (1978 II.D.2) The puck cannot be "topped" by lifting the mallet and placing it on the top of the puck. This cannot be done at any time whether before a serve or after a serve during play. Violation of the rule constitutes a foul -- never a technical foul. (Cl #6) Using the mallet to bring an air-borne puck to the table or opponent's goal is not a topping violation no matter which side or edge of the puck is contacted.

7. (1978 II.D.3) Although the puck cannot be "topped", the edge of the puck may be "chipped" or "chopped" with the bottom or top of the mallet. The referee should caution players not to tilt their mallets so as to descend past a 40 degree angle when touching the puck with the mallet. Otherwise, their action can be considered "topping" the puck which incurs the penalty of a foul. "Tilting" or "dipping" the mallet 40 degrees or above for either offensive or defensive purposes is legal.

8. (1978 II.C.7) If any part of a player's hand(s), or arm(s), or body, or clothes touches the puck, "palming" will be called by the referee which constitutes a foul and the player doing so loses possession of the puck.

a. (1978 II.C.7a) If, during a defensive block only, the puck rises from the tables and touches the defensive player's hand(s) or arm(s) no foul need be called.
b. (1978 II.C.7b) "Goal-Tending": if, in the referee's decision, "palming" occurs while the puck is moving in a direct path towards the goal for a score, whether by straight shot or bank shot, "goal-tending" must be called against the player doing the "palming." "Goal-tending" incurs a technical foul for which the penalty includes loss of puck and also allows opponent a free shot at the unprotected goal of the offending player. This penalty is enacted upon each and every occurrence of "goal-tending."

9. (1978 II.C.6) When a player loses total control of his own mallet, whether during an offensive shot, defensive maneuver, or merely positioning the puck the player commits a foul and loses possession of the puck.

10. a. (1978 II.C.1) When the puck is struck in an offensive manner, leaves the playing surface, and remains off the table, the player causing such action commits a foul and loses possession of the puck. Pucks leaning half on rail and half on table are considered off the table.
b. (1978 II.C.2) If the defensive player, in the opinion of the referee, blocks the puck and causes the puck to leave the playing surface permanently, the defensive player retains possession of the puck.
c. (1978 II.C.3) If the defensive player (again referee's decision) strikes the puck in an offensive manner (and causes the puck to leave the playing surface), this constitutes "charging the puck." The defensive player then loses possession of the puck.
d. (1978 II.C.4) If a defensive player moves toward the side and blocks the puck off the table, the puck belongs to him. If he moves sideways making a shot and knocks it off the table, the puck goes to the opponent. In unusual circumstances, the referee may make the judgment decision that "use of excessive force" has occurred, in which case the defensive player commits the foul and forfeits the puck.

11. (1995 Littleton Meeting) If an offensive player hits a puck and the puck wobbles, hitting the hand of the defensive player, but not changing the speed and direction of the puck, then no foul occurs.

12. (1978 II.B.6) Anyone violating the centerline rules commits a foul and forfeits possession of the puck to the player fouled.

13. (Cl #24) Any player who, on his hand serve, makes a score in his opponent's goal without there having been an offensive shot made on the puck, since the time that the puck was IN PLAY, commits the foul of Tossed Score. In other words, a player cannot just toss the puck into the opponent's goal. The illegal score shall not create a point, and the player who was illegally scored upon shall have the right to hand serve as the penalty imposed upon the fouling player.

14. (Cl #10) Although a referee doesn't suspend play in time after a foul, if his/her voice or gesture interferes with continued play to the point of distraction, the puck should be returned to the player not committing the foul. A player must never assume that a foul will be called and stop his/her 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.

15. (1995 Littleton Meeting) UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT WARNING: a foul is incurred upon the second conduct warning received in a match, a technical foul is incurred upon the third conduct warning received in a match, a fourth conduct warning results in forfeiture of the current game, and a fifth conduct warning results in forfeiture of the match. A referee issues the conduct warnings immediately but must wait until after the game to record the details on the back of the match card. Actions which should receive "conduct warnings" include, but are not limited to:

a. Excessive or abusive arguing with the referee
b. Cursing directed towards the referee
c. Speaking loud and vulgar obscenities
d. Verbal or physical assault of another player, spectator, or referee
e. Actions that endanger spectators
f. Destruction of property
g. Actions that discredit the sport, as decided on by the USAA Board
h. Taunting of another player (includes but not limited to: cursing your opponent, verbally defaming them, or making obscene gestures)i. Intentional or excessive distractive noise

16. (1995 Littleton Meeting) If a referee feels a player has committed extreme unsportsmanlike conduct, the referee may issue multiple "conduct warnings" for one single action. A referee may issue enough "conduct warnings" to cause a forfeiture of a game or match immediately if he/she feels the penalty is warranted.

17. (1995 Littleton Meeting) DISTRACTIVE NOISE: talking to an opponent, a spectator, a referee, or oneself during play may be penalized by a foul. Loud noises and excessive screaming can also be considered distractive. A referee may warn a player before calling a foul at his/her discretion. Intentional or excessive distractive talking may be penalized by a "conduct warning" in addition
to a foul. Possible distraction violations which directly lead to a score or a change of possession should be scrutinized more seriously by a referee when determining whether to ignore, warn or penalize the potential violation.

B. Face-Offs

1. (1978 IV.B.5) The referee will use a face-off at centerline as a determinant at any time during the game. Face-off is when the puck is placed flat on the center of the table by the referee with the players allowed to advance to within one inch of the puck. (1996 Houston) Before the face-off, no player may touch the centerline. They must wait until the referee releases the puck, at which time normal centerline rules will be in effect. Once both players are positioned, the referee will call "players ready" then wait 1, 2, 3, or 4 seconds (as in track races) then silently release the puck. When the referee releases the puck, the players may go for it. The referee should make a determined effort to release the puck without causing any motion to it. If excessive motion is attained by the puck, the referee may declare the face-off null and redo it. If the puck goes off the table, face-off is repeated. Also, if either player contacts the puck before the referee releases it then he/she has committed a false start. Each player is allowed one false start with no penalty. If a second false start is committed then the innocent player receives possession in stead of a face-off.

2. (1996 Houston) The following constitute winning a face-off: a score on the opponent or gaining the first clear possession without fouling. A puck which has not yet left the centerline can not constitute possession for either player. The referee will signal with his arm in the direction of the player who won the face-off.

SECTION VI. Centerline

A. Centerline

1. (1978 II.B.1) If puck is completely contained in one player's half of the playing surface, opposing player may not cross centerline of table with his/her mallet or body.

2. (1978 II.B.2) A player may stand anywhere around the table on his/her side of the centerline. He/she may not stand past that line.

3. (1978 II.B.3) When the puck contacts any part of the centerline, either player may strike the puck to score.

4. (1991 Houston meeting) If the puck and mallet of the offensive player are both completely on the offensive player's side, the defensive player may not strike either the puck or mallet. Also, the offensive player may not strike the defensive player's mallet in this situation when the defensive player's mallet is completely on his own side.

5. (1978 II.B.3.a) Although a mallet is allowed to overreach the centerline, the mallet may never completely extend over the centerline -- even when following through on a shot. The mallet may never extend further than its diameter across the centerline.

6. (1995 Littleton Meeting) If in the course of hitting the puck legally, a player's mallet extends partially (but not completely) over the centerline, no foul shall be called if his mallet contacts the opposing player's mallet.

7. (1978 II.B.4) If a player scores by striking the puck while the puck is completely on the opponent's side of the table, the point does not count.

8. (1978 II.B.5) During any Face-Off at center of the table, the centerline rules are still in effect.

SECTION VII. Scoring, Serves, Shots

A. Scoring, Serves, Shots

1. (1978 II.A.1) When the puck enters and drops inside a player's goal, the player's opponent receives one point (unless play had been suspended by the referee.) If the puck stops in the goal yet has tilted and broken the horizontal plane of the goal then a score has occurred. If a puck stops in the goal and does not tilt, thereby not break the horizontal plane, then the player may either hand the puck to the other player or try to work the puck out of the goal using legal play methods.

2. (1995 Littleton Meeting) If the puck rebounds out of the goal mouth, the point does not count. A puck which rebounds out of  the goal mouth and strikes the defending player's hand, and rebounds back into the goal DOES count.

3. (1995 Littleton Meeting) If a puck hits a player's hand on its way into the goal, the point counts as long as the puck would have scored without the contact.

4. (1978 II.A.3) If a score occurs after the table cuts off power, the point will count only if the puck was struck prior to the table's cutting off power.

5. (1978 III.A) The first player to accumulate seven (7) points wins the game.

6. (1978 II.A.5) The player scored upon receives possession of puck for the next serve.

7. (Cl #11) A player may hand serve the puck only after it has entered his goal.

8. (Cl #7) The player has 7 seconds to execute a shot which crosses the centerline. No exceptions.

9. If a puck is flipping around on its edge on one player's side of the table, then the player may wait for it to stop. The referee will suspend the seven second rule until the puck rests on its side.

10. (1978 II.D.4) Lifting the mallet from the table and striking the puck is legal. However, if the referee can show clear damage to the table, the player causing such damage to the table must cease use of whatever method of play causes it.

11. (1978 II.D.1) The puck may be struck with any part of the mallet, i.e., the side, the top of bottom edge of the mallet.

12. (1978 II.A.4) If interference occurs during a shot which scores and interference is called by referee, the point does not count. (Interference constitutes foreign objects on table playing surface, obvious unnecessary noise distractions by spectator(s) which cause distractions to player(s) and/or any other incident(s) so deemed by referee.) The puck returns to the player who possessed it prior to the interference.

13. (Cl #5) If a player takes a shot and drops his mallet and the puck enters his/her own goal for a score without it being deflected by the defensive player, the point counts. The player is permitted to stop the puck with hands or body. No point would be scored if the puck enters the opponent's goal due to the distraction. If a players shoots and the defense loses the mallet, the defense may not use hands or body to stop the shot if the shot occurred prior to or simultaneously with the losing of the mallet. The point counts if it scores.

14. If a player commits a foul and is scored upon in the course of the same play, the goal counts and the penalty is nullified.

SECTION VIII. Unsportmanlike Conduct, Player Rights and Responsibilities

B. Player Rights

1. (Cl #9) Before competition begins, a player has the right to play under the stipulation that no special time-outs for the purpose of clearing sweat from the table be called. Unless a player requests this stipulation from the referee either player may request the referee to clean the table during a game.

2. An appeal may be made from either player not in agreement with the referee's decision. However, the appeals from an Official Air-Hockey Competition and a Challenge Match go to different bodies. (1)(1978 IV.A.3) The appeal goes to the Head Referees in  an Official Air-Hockey Competition. The Head Referees may overturn the original referee's decision only if the matter is an incorrect understanding of the rules. After the correct rule is understood, the original referee's interpretation of the evidence according to the rules is final. The appeal in this situation must be made immediately after the occurrence or after the end of the
game in which the disagreement took place. When the next game is begun, no appeal may be made. (2)The appeal goes to the U.S.A.A. Board of Directors after a challenge match. These directors decide whether the appeal is valid and, if so, have the right to make any decisions they deem necessary.

C. Player Responsibilities

1. (1990 Boulder meeting) If a player desires spectators or players to be quieter while he/she is playing, he/she should ask the referee to request quiet from the crowd. If the referee does not believe the noise to be unusual, then the referee does not have to request the quiet. The player desiring quiet must not abuse the crowd.

SECTION IX. Tournament and Challenge Match Procedures

A. Time Limits

1. Players have a maximum of two minutes in between games during a tournament match. During a challenge match players have a maximum of one minute in between games, however either player may choose to take one 2 mintue break in between games each set. This may be extended in emergencies.

2. Players may take a maximum 15 minute break between sets during a tournament or challenge match. This may be extended due to emergencies.

3. (Walker Clause) When a match is called, both players have 15 minutes to report to the referee or the tournament director. The clock begins when the match is called and does not stopped ticking until both players report. If there is not a response within 10 minutes, then the next match is called. For a player who has not reported by 15 minutes, one point is lost, and then one addtional point for each minute afterwards. This will continue until the player finally reports to the referee or the tournament director. (1997 Houston) Any penalties assessed by this clause are mandatory and NOT up to the discretion of the offending player's opponent.

4.(Flagrant Walker Clause) If a player has been informed personally that his match is up for play, the player has five minutes to report to the table for competition. If the player does not comply by the end of five minutes, he loses one point per game, and then one point per game per minute thereafter.

B. Player Rights and Responsibilities

1. (1997 Houston) Players who do not referee a match which they are responsible to referee, or who do not provide a referee acceptable to the players when the players are ready, face the possible penalty of conduct warnings and/or more severe penalties at the discretion of the tournament committee. The referee does have a maximum 5 minute break if he/she has just finished competing.

2. (CL #15) During latter matches on the last day of a tournament, players are granted permission to watch three games of an on-going match, even if the time for their match has come.

3. (CL #20) Players must inform either of the two National referees if the players are leaving the tournament premises. Players should provide specific information as to their whereabouts and length of absence. If National Referees are unavailable, chart personnel must be consulted.

4. (1997 Houston) Players who voluntarily forfeit out of a tournament are not entitled to their prize money or prizes. The USAA may make exceptions to this rule in extreme cases. The unclaimed prizes go to the USAA.

C. USAA Rights and Responsibilities

1. (CL #21) The USAA reserves the right to photograph or videotape any tournament play desired by the camera crew and to use it as players request. Players may refuse to permit flashbulbs or extreme lighting to be used during their match by camera people.

2. (CL #22) The USAA and tournament sponsors are not responsible in any way for loss resulting from injury during or traveling to and from any of its sanctioned events. Each participant and spectator assumes full and total resonsibility for health and safety and agrees that the USAA and its sponsors are held harmless.

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