Table hockey originated in the same wintry clime that developed real ice hockey: Canada. In 1933, Toronto resident Donald H. Munro built an early prototype of a table hockey game as a Christmas gift. Munro couldn’t afford to buy his children presents that year, so he built his game from scavenged scraps of wood and metal. After friends and neighbors marveled at his new game, Munro produced more, selling them on consignment at Eaton’s department store in Toronto.
The most important difference between table hockey and other tabletop games at the time was the convex shape of the surface, which forced the metal “puck” to automatically roll towards either end of the miniature rink. Unlike pinball games, this allowed two players to be equally involved on offense and defense at all times.
In 1954, a competing version of Munro's table hockey game appeared, manufactured by the Eagle Toy Company of Montreal. Eagle’s product was the first to feature realistic images of players printed in color on flat tin cutouts, which were mounted to rotate a full 360 degrees. This model was also endorsed by the NHL, and featured images of the official team pennants. Munro's game lacked the NHL seal of approval, but he did get players like Bobby Orr to endorse his product.
In contrast to traditional table hockey, the concept behind air hockey was initiated by a group of Brunswick Billiards employees in 1969. Their goal was to create a game played on a fully frictionless surface, an effect finally achieved by creating a constant cushion of air across the table's top.
The first air hockey game was released in 1972 and was an immediate success, prompting the formation of an official air hockey league in Houston, Texas, the following year. In 1975, the United States Air Table Hockey Association (USAA) was established to standardize regulations, and leagues began popping up across the United States.