I recently had the opportunity to take some time to talk to the creator of http://www.tablehockey.com Rick Benej. Rick has been building custom made table hockey games for the past 28 years! He has had interviews done with The Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and even Playboy!
I’ll open this by saying I am a fan of his work, and he makes the most beautiful table hockey game that I have ever seen, so I was extremely grateful that he was kind enough to give me a few hours of his time for this interview, and to be able to talk hockey in general. I highly recommend checking his site out and even give Rick a call if you have any questions.
SH: Tell me about yourself and how you came to enjoy hockey.
RB: I was born in Brooklyn NY in 1947 and raised in Queens with my two sisters. I had loved table games since I was a young man, and truly fell in love with hockey when my cousins took me to a Rangers game at Madison Square Gardens when I was 10 years old. I eventually became a cabinet maker, and moved on to making table hockey games in 1982.
SH: What was the first table hockey game you had ever owned?
RB: It was a game called Saturday Night in Canada, and that game featured the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. I had that game for a long time, and also played some of the Eagle brand of games which influenced my interest in making a game of my own.
SH: Can you give me what you consider the highlights of the game you make?
RB: Well first off I have continued to learn and improve the game over the years by a lot of trial and error, but the greatest feature of my game is that the game is balanced. And by that I mean most previous games were right side dominant. The key to my game is that you can pass and set up plays equally on both sides of the rink.
SH: What are the materials that go into building a game?
RB: The playing surface is made of PVC which gives it a lot more durability as compared to most games that have used hardboard in the past. It also makes it much stronger for transport. The frame is made up of MDF and also highlighted with Maple and Walnut. Also the new lexan nets give it a great look and reduces the number of in and out goals dramatically. The rods are made with 5/16” Fiberglass and they will last for a very long time.
SH: Why lexan nets? I would have thought that a real mesh net would have worked better?
RB: That is what I had initially thought as well and my earlier games did have the mesh netting, however I was never able to get to the “holy grail” of 95% of shots that go into the net stay in the net. This problem would lead to arguments at tournaments so I looked for a better solution, and with the lexan the pucks are forced down into the net even with shots under the crossbar! I would say now that we have a 98%-99% rate of pucks staying in the net. The other plus was that it would take 2-3 hours to build a mesh net, while with lexan I can build a net in 45 minutes to an hour.
SH: So what are the overall dimensions of the game and of the various pieces?
RB: The size of the table when it is completed is 53”x33” with a playing surface of 47”x29” that is a wider game than my first two versions. The nets are 3 1/4”x2” and the puck is about the width of a nickel, with a brass core for some weight with a ribbed edge and coated with Teflon. The playing figures also have a ribbed edge on their sticks so that with practice players will be able to raise the puck on their shots but keep control as well for crisp passing. Another feature is that the legs are designed with suction cups on them so they will stick to any table 36”x30” or larger and won’t shift on the players.
Check back on Saturday when I will post the second part of my interview with Rick and you will see the evolution of his game as well as some of the coolest features I’ve ever seen!
Part 2 is now posted here.. http://prosportsblogging.com/psb/special-blogs/my_interview_with_rick_benej_part_2_of_2_/
Have a good one!
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About the Author
Written by Shane Hoopfer
Die hard Flames fan since 1980, and a closet baseball junkie. Also a big Dolphins, and Stampeders fan!