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The History of Bubble Hockey

From the Great Depression to Now, This is Where Bubble Hockey All Began.



Picture this: It’s winter in Lake Placid, New York, 1980. The Cold War is in full swing, Soviet troops are in Afghanistan, and the Iranian Hostage Crisis has been going on for 4 months. And at this very moment, the United States Olympic Hockey Team is facing off against the Soviets. The odds of the US beating the Soviets is low. Really low. The Soviets are more than an ‘amateur international hockey’ team; they are part of the Soviet military, where their lives are dedicated to the sport. They have taken home gold medals in the last 4 Winter Olympic games and even beaten a number of NHL teams in exhibition games. The US team, on the other hand, is mostly college students. While they have trained hard, they lost 3-10 in an exhibition game against the Soviets weeks ago. They are a clear underdog. As the first period ends the, the game is tied, 2-2. Then at the end of the second period, the Soviets score bringing the score to 3-2. But with 10 minutes left on the clock in period 3, and a score of 3-3, Mike Eruzione on the US team shoots the game winning goal. The Soviets try and score, but can’t. The buzzer sounds and the US team has beaten the Soviets, 4-3, in one of the largest upsets in sports history, and the crowd goes wild! The rest is history.



Does this story sound familiar? Popularized for a new generation by the 2004 movie, Miracle, this ‘Miracle on Ice’ as it is known, was the basis for the very first modern bubble hockey game. Created by Innovative Concepts in Entertainment (ICE) created the game in 1982, to this day it still shows the US team facing off against the Soviets. But this isn’t where it all began.



The very first known table hockey game was created in 1932 by Donald Munro, Sr. in Toronto, Canada. During the Great Depression, Munro lacked the funds to buy his children Christmas presents, so he decided to make them one instead from spare parts around the house. Much different from modern versions, it featured pinball machine like flippers and a ball bearing for a puck. The kids loved it and he realized he might able to make more and sell them. He visited a department store and by the end of the day had an order for 5 games. He applied for a patent in 1936 and started Munro Games Ltd.



It wasn’t long until competitors started cropping up, with Eagle being the largest. This lead to game improvements from both companies such as a tin cut-out players and a playfield that resembled an ice hockey rink- slowly starting to look like the table hockey games we know today.



For years, table hockey was exceptionally popular in Canada and the Northern United States. However, as times changed and the digital age began, it slowly faded away. Today, Munro and Eagle are no longer around, but you can still find some excellent ‘table’ hockey games. A great fixture in game rooms and bars, the now evolved table hockey, is most often seen in the form of bubble hockey. There are 2 styles: electronic and manual.



In electronic games the score is kept by a digital score unit and, after a goal, the puck comes up from the center of the playfield, accompanied by electronic cheering from the ‘crowd’. The manual versions, on the other hand, usually have an optional electronic scoring unit, and feature a hole in the top of the dome through which to drop the puck. Because they are manual, these models tend to have less issues and, in the event there is an issue, the repairs are more affordable. While these features might not seem to extreme, the price certainly is, with electronic models going for $3,000 and manual models going for $1,149.



Still in the heart of Hockey country, in Bay City, Michigan, only 5 hours from where table hockey was born, is Gold Standard Games, makers of Shelti dome hockey tables. Shelti makes 2 manual models: Slapshot and Breakout. Slapshot features infrared scoring, a wide platform base, and attractive graphics. Breakout features those same great graphics and infrared scoring, and instead has a low-profile dome and solid wooden legs.



Going only a few hours west, you’ll find Holland, Michigan based Holland Bar Stool. These high-quality tables feature logos of your favorite NHL teams. So whether you root for the Red Wings or the Avalanche, they’ve got you covered. These models also feature electronic scoring, beautiful surface graphics, and a wide platform base.

Bubble hockey has come a long way since its days as a table hockey game adorning dining room tables all over Canada and the Northern US, and even further since it was conceived by Munro with household scraps. There’s never been a better time to find the bubble hockey game that suits your needs. Check out all the Shelti and Holland Bar Stool bubble hockey games available at GameRoomGuys.com and remember, any bubble hockey purchased from our website or over the phone, comes with free o ver the phone technical support for as long as you own the game!



Game On!



For more information on any of the topics discussed here, check out the following sources that I used as references:

  • https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/feb-22-1980-u-s-a-beats-soviet-union-in-miracle-on-ice/?_r=0
  • http://www.bubbleairhockey.com/bubble-hockey-history.html
  • https://brandmuseum.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/munro/