Bubble Hockey Buying Guide

How to buy the best bubble hockey table?

 

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ll eventually own a home.  Appliances and TV’s are nice, but the real fun is when you start shopping for entertainment for your basement.  That’s where Bubble Hockey comes in.

A Bubble Hockey table is a great addition to any home.  If you’re on this page, you’ve probably looked into foosball tables, pool tables, dart boards, etc.  I’ll compare and contrast bubble hockey versus these other options so you know the pros and cons of all of them.  Bubble hockey is also known as rod hockey and also as dome hockey.  I think what you call it kind of depends on what your friends call it or the area of you live in.

Best bubble hockey table on the market
Best bubble hockey table on the market

Best bubble hockey table

So what is the best bubble hockey table to buy?  If you’ve got the money, then there’s only one choice, Super Chexx.  First made in 1983 with the original Chexx, ICE started the category and still leads it today.  New games can cost $2500 to $3000, depending on whether you get the home version or the arcade version.  Both versions have their plus and minuses, with the home version having a nice power on switch plus volume knob, while the commercial version has coin slots and higher resale value.  I personally have an original CHEXX game that I got off craigslist a few years back (pictures are in this article).

What’s the difference between an original CHEXX and a Super CHEXX?  The base game is nearly identical.  The main differences are:

  1. Super CHEXX counts shots, although both make sound when shots are made
  2. Super CHEXX has slight different commentary and sounds, although not that much different.  The quality of the sound on the newest ones does seem to be better, I’ve played an original CHEXX, one from the mid 90’s, and one from the 00’s, and the one from the 00’s was definitely better for sound quality.
  3. Newer Super CHEXX sometimes have different teams or options than USA vs Canada.  The original CHEXX was USA vs USSR.
  4. The original CHEXX had a blue base, while Super Chexx either has a red or black base.  Some of the newer games also have a split base, which is the best option if you have narrow doors.

Where to buy a CHEXX game?

Where can you buy a Super CHEXX or CHEXX?  For a new one, you can buy one directly from ICE cheaper than anywhere else.  For used ones though, craigslist and ebay are very good, but you’ve got to be quick a lot of the time.  In some areas, they don’t come up for a sale very often, but when they do, they disappear rather quickly.  Original CHEXX games are usually priced used between $500 and $1000, older Super CHEXX’s for $1000 to $1500, and newer games are $1500 to $2000 used.  Is it worth it to buy used?  Kind of depends on what you want.  If the game is from a home owner and never in a bar, then it can be a great pickup used.  If the game was heavily used in a bar, then you’ve got to take into account the amount of parts you might need to replace.  The bubble that covers the table costs around $400 by itself, so if it’s in bad shape you might have to negotiate the table price down to account for that.

Bubble Hockey vs Foosball

Probably the biggest competitor to bubble hockey is foosball.  They’re very similar in how they play, but there are also some major differences that may come into play if you have a family.  The biggest difference between the two is that on bubble hockey, the rods don’t extend into the other player.  Why is this important?  Because if you have little kids, the first thing they like to do is jab the rod of one side into the head of their sibling on the other side, inevitably leading to crying and work for mom and dad.  You can buy some special model foosball tables which don’t have rods that extend through the other side, which can fix that issue.

The other difference is that on foosball you can reach into the table and grab the ball, while in bubble hockey the puck is enclosed.  The enclosed surface helps protect little fingers and hands from accidentally getting whacked by a player.  Besides that, the other thing that happens is that the kids run off with the balls on a foosball table, which isn’t possible on a bubble hockey table.  One thing that is harder than foosball for little kids is turning it on.  Most CHEXX tables don’t have a power switch and you have to plug them in to turn it on, which is a lot harder than just putting a ball on a table for little kids.  I use a power strip to make it easier to turn mine off and on.

Playing Bubble Hockey

When it comes to playing, how much fun is bubble hockey?  The answer…a TON, if you’ve got somebody to play against.  Playing a 1v1 or 2v2 game with the sounds and gameplay, it’s one of the best games for head to head play.  Unlike most head to head parlor games, bubble hockey tables have electronics.  The electronics make a huge difference in the immersion of the game.  Plus one of the biggest things is that most people have never even seen one, let alone play one.  Every time I have a get together the bubble hockey is a huge hit.

What do the electronics do besides keep score?  Probably the biggest thing is sound.  Star Spangled Banner, crown cheers and boos, music, etc, all add a ton to the excitement.  The Super CHEXX version of the game also keep track of shots, which is also fun to have.  They also shoot out the puck for every faceoff, which helps keep the games even.

If you live in colder parts of the world, finding a bubble hockey table to test out isn’t too hard, usually local bars and stores will have them.  In warmer areas though, it starts getting a lot harder to find one to try out.  Local hockey arenas are probably the best places to find one.

Issues on used Bubble Hockey tables

 

What else do you need to look for on a used CHEXX?  The most common failure is gear stripping when the player’s turn.  What happens is when the players twist against each other over long periods of time, the gears begin to strip.  When this happens, the players will no turn correctly, it’s pretty easy to spot.  Other trouble spots include the scoreboard and the main circuit board.  Most of the time, the main circuit board is fine, but if you find a CHEXX where the game doesn’t boot up at all but is dirt cheap, you may be able to get the board repaired through ICE for a fee.  The scoreboards main problem is that segments often fail on it.  The scoreboard is repairable though through replacement boards through ICE or through third parties.  A good website for repairing a CHEXX machine is http://pinrepair.com/arcade/chexx.htm

Chexx bubble hockey on ice action
On the ice action with Chexx Bubble Hockey

Non-CHEXX bubble hockey options

  • If a Super CHEXX is out of your price range and you’re looking for something new under $1000, Carrom is generally thought to be the best option.  Most reviews though say it’s not on the same level as a CHEXX game, but that’s to be expected since most CHEXX games are double or triple the price.  Shelti also makes games that are generally considered to be high quality and basically CHEXX clones, but in my opinion, if you’re going to spend that much money on a bubble hockey you’d be better off just getting CHEXX because of availability of parts, information, and high resale value.  A lot of people are happy with their Shelti games though.

Bubble Hockey vs Pool

One of the other options for multiplayer entertainment in your game room is a pool table.  A pool table is a lot of fun, but it has one major strike against it, it takes up a ton of space.  One pool table will take up more space that almost anything else you might buy outside of a ping pong table or air hockey.

I would say generally that a pool table is great if you’ve got a ton of space to work with, but if space is limited you would be better off with a bubble hockey, pinball, darts, etc that would all fit in that same space.  Pool is generally great if you’ve got TV or something else to do while you’re playing, while bubble hockey requires a lot more focus, so take that into consideration.  If watching TV while playing a bar game is something that you’d like to have I’d suggest a dart board plus bubble hockey combo, that way you can have both options while using less space that even a pool table would use.

Upgrading your Bubble Hockey

If you’ve acquired a Chexx from the 80’s or 90’s, you might want to consider upgrading some of the parts.  Here are the parts I would recommend considering replacing:

  • The Dome.  Often years of play has dulled the shine of the dome plus left it with a done of scratches.  I replaced mine right away on my regular Chexx.  The cost is around $400.
  • Rod Handles.  These are often dirty and in not very good shape.  I replaced all of mine, they’re not very expensive, less than $10 a handle.
  • Goalie Nets.  After years of play, the goals are usually broke or are very beat up.  They’re only about $30 apiece I believe.
  • Playing surface, or the ‘ice’.  New playing surface is only like $110 and will look worlds better than the old surface, plus play better too.  A lot of times the old surface will crack near the goalies and cause gameplay issues.
  • Side stickers.  While not really necessary, new side stickers will really dress up the side of the games.  They’re not very expensive either.
  • New players.  Often games have broken players or players that mismatched from being replaced by whatever was available at the time.  My suggestion is to buy the NHL player sets from ICE direct, they’re $99 for an entire team and are much better looking than the usual USA and USSR players that come with the default game.  I bought Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche for my personal game.  When installing the new players, as a word of warning, the sticks of the players may drag on the ice.  Either you’ll have to sand down the bottom of the stick some or elevate the player some.

You can find the parts here:

http://www.icegame.com/c-22-super-chexx.aspx?pagenum=1

Other Rod Hockey Parts

Besides the common parts, the other parts that people sometimes replace are the rods and gears that control the individual players.  The gears sometimes strip and instead of the players rotating, they just stick and don’t move properly.  To fix this, you’ll need to replace the little gear box under the playfield that is connected to the player rod.  It’s not super hard but it is a little time consuming to take all of the players off the surface.  I would recommend labeling the players so you know exactly where they were, otherwise their sticks may not work quite right if put into a new position.

If your scoreboard has lights out or segments missing, you may have to get replacements off ebay or from ICE.  The bulb is pretty easy to replace, but the scoreboard is a lot harder to work on.  Make sure you have adequate electronics skills before attempting to work on or replace the scoreboard.  Some people have replaced the lamp with LED’s instead in order to cut down on heat, which isn’t a bad idea.  I did this upgrade with instructions here:

http://gameroominfo.com/2016/11/07/bubble-hockey-lighting-upgrade

The bulb is a #1156, which evidently there are a bunch of LED options now besides the one I used.  I’m very happy with the upgrade so far.

Hopefully this rundown has been helpful in deciding whether to buy a bubble hockey table or to buy something else.  I started out with a foosball table 15 years ago, sold it when I had kids, then moved to a bubble hockey a few years ago.  Haven’t regretted my decision at all, it’s definitely a hit when other people come over.

I did get an email one time about Hard Hittin’ Hockey.  Unfortunately I don’t know where to get parts for it.  I’ve also gotten the question what’s the difference between Dome hockey and Bubble Hockey.  The answer is there is no difference, they’re the same thing.  Sometimes Bubble Hockey is also called rod hockey, but rod hockey can also refer to some tables which are similar to super chexx without the dome (they have side boards similar to a real hockey rink).

If you have any questions, please email me at gameroominfo@gmail.com.