Air Hockey Drifting – Drift to Set Up Shots

Air Hockey is a fun game but it is also a competitive one. Even if you are not playing at tournaments and are just casually playing with friends, a bit of strategy never hurt anyone. And well, if you’ve got a competitive side then you are going to want to read on as we talk all about air hockey drifting and how to make the most use of it.

What Is Air Hockey Drifting?

Drifting isn’t just cool in action movies but also on the table. This is a great offense technique that you should practice to get it right. Once you have got a handle on it you will automatically become a better player. So what is it? Air hockey drifting is when you gently push the puck with your mallet and when it is moving slowly you take your shot. Think of it as a pass to your own self. There are a few reasons why this is such an effective offense. One, you can use it to trick your opponent. Once you drift a puck your opponent will get the impression that you will send the puck in one direction and get ready to block it but with a drift you can change the direction so that your opponent does not have time to recalibrate and block the puck. Two, you can move the puck into the shooting zone which is an invisible zone close to the centerline and if you shoot from here the accuracy of your shot will be much more.

How Is It Done?

Drifting may sound easy and theoretically it is simple enough but as with everything when you add speed and the requirement for quick reflexes it becomes a bit more tricky to effectively drift the puck. The puck will be almost completely frictionless from the air blowing from the table on top of which when you drift you are essentially hitting a moving puck. So practice is a must. 

Now it depends on what weight your puck is and what kind of table is being used to figure out how much force to apply to the puck initially. If you hit too lightly then the puck will not move enough to be in the place you want but if you hit it too hard then you will have lost control of the puck and moved it too far. Timing matters a lot as well. You have to time your movements so that you can take the kind of shot you want once the puck is moving whether it is a straight shot or a trick shot.

Triangle pucks for Air Hockey Drift

What Are the Types of Drifts?

Drifting might look like taking chances and pushing the puck without really thinking it through but there are types of drifts that players learn to arm their offense. Specifically, there are three types of drifts: the basic, L-drift or the circle drift. Learning all three is not easy. We suggest mastering the basic first and then moving on.

The basic drift has the benefit of allowing you to take a shot anywhere along the drift. You start off by pushing the puck from the back right quadrant of the table towards the centerline at a 35 to 45 degree angle. 

The L-Drift becomes a bit more complex. It starts off the same as the basic. You hit the puck at a 35-45 degree angle towards the centerline but then you circle the puck and block it with your mallet. This makes it move back into the original position at the right quadrant. Expert players use this to vary their shot sequence and timing. And the extra time you get from this allows you to see what your opponent is doing so you can take advantage of that knowledge and make your shot in a way that they are not expecting. This drift was made famous by Owen Giraldo when he was playing to win the National title.

The third drift, Circle Drift, was made popular by Tim Weissman as he was becoming one of the best players in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The Circle Drift is the most used air hockey drift nowadays. This is because it lets the player take shots from several places on the table. The Circle Drift comprises pushing the puck clockwise in a diamond shape. The puck is hit by the mallet twice, once at the bottom and again at the top to reverse it and counterclockwise. This drift can allow the player to time delays, change-ups, and use other techniques to secure the shot with minimal adjustments.

Not only will learning these be challenging and fun but the real reward will be when you drift the puck and your opponent does not even see your shot coming until you have already scored.