What Are Expectations from Air Hockey in 2021 for Players?

1. Challenges Facing

Last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic many events had to be canceled including hockey tournaments and world championships. This year, however, with the increasing number of vaccinated people and relaxing guidelines from CDC, there is a good chance that tournaments will be held once again. At the very least, you can start playing air hockey at home with your friends. As long as COVID-19 SOPs and guidelines are followed, everything should pan out without any last-minute cancellations. So it’s time once again to wipe the dust off your pucks and strikers and get ready to win. 

So where can you start if you want to play air hockey competitively and engage with other enthusiasts? First, acquaint yourself with the only two major air hockey tournaments, their venues, timings, enrolment fees, and enrolment cutoff dates. One is hosted by the Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA) and the other is hosted by the United States Air hockey Association (USAA). It’s important to note that these are the big leagues and if you feel you are not ready for them, yet you should start with local tournaments for whichever skill level suits you. Generally, every year AHPA hosts their annual championship tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado in July. Players from all over the world participate and this time AHPA is allowing tournament registration for amateurs so even if you are not at the professional level, yet you can participate. USAA instead holds their World Championship a little earlier, usually in the first month of spring i.e. March.

2. Participation in Tournaments

Before you sign up and pay for your enrolment in one of these tournaments, there are some things you should be aware of. The main one of course is to know the rules of each tournament. The second is to know the categorization of different playing classes. For table hockey tournaments, the organizers are allowed to hold several competitions for the following classes:
  • Open: Players of any age, gender, or nationality,
  • Women: Female players of any age or nationality,
  • Junior: Players aged 18 years or younger all throughout the year when the tournament is held,
  • Veteran: Players who reach the age of 40 years on or before the year when the tournament is held,
  • Superveteran: Players who reach the age of 55 years on or before the year
  • Kid: Players aged 13 years or younger all throughout the year when the tournament is held.

You also have to decide if you will be playing doubles or singles and whether you want to join a club and/or a team. The top 25 players in the open category in the ITHF World Ranking are automatically qualified for the annual international championships (World Championships, European Championships) in the open category without having to qualify through a national or international qualification tournament. So before you can compete at that level you have to build up to it. The best way would be to start with local tournaments and taking your time to steadily climb the rankings. 

3. STIGA Shootout

STIGA Tournaments are one of the biggest ones when it comes to Table Hockey. To see the winning players and the official table hockey ranking list, visit the official website of the International Table Hockey Federation. There you will find the table hockey world ranking list for the following categories:

  • Open - All players who participated in at least at one tournament during the last six years are included, with an  archive dating back to 1st May 1989
  • Ladies
  • Juniors - Players born 2003 and later
  • Veterans - Players born 1981 or earlier
  • Nations - The best five players from each country are considered
  • Ladies nations - The best three ladies from each country are considered
  • Juniors nations - The best three juniors from each country are considered
  • Veterans nations - The best three veterans from each country are considered
  • Clubs - The best four members of each club are considered

The website also gives information about the algorithm on which the ranking is based, so you can use this information to rise up fast.

The following are three of the five major upcoming STIGA tournaments that you can still enroll in along with their location and dates:

  • The Chicago STIGA Open tournament is scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 24, 2021, in suburban Chicago.
  • The Detroit STIGA Championship should take place on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
  • The United States STIGA Shootout 2022 is scheduled for February 5, 2022, in Orange County, California.