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Tabletop game a passion and a business

Part of an article written by Michael Traikos and published in April 2004 edition of Business Hockey ( see reference to Peter Reynolds and his replica Munro games)

Surprisingly enough, some things were a lot easier during the Great Depression. Take Christmas for instance. ack then if you didn't have money to buy gifts for your family all you had to do was grab an ironing board, attach a clothes hanger to the bottom and fit the top with wooden men. After several hours tooling in the basement what you ended up with was either another failed contraption to go beside that attempted spice rack and bird feeder from years past, or - if you had a bit of talent and ingenuity - the world's first tabletop hock- ey game.

That's what Donald H. Munroe, of Toronto, did in 1932, when he invented The Wood Game, the first tabletop hockey game. More than 70 years later, table- top hockey has evolved past the wooden players and ball-bearing steel ball to include plastic play- ers that rotate 360 degrees and a playing surface that's more like an air hockey table than an iron- ing board.

The one constant: it's still a game that has kids and adults competing against one another for their miniature version of the Stanley Cup. "When I was a kid in the early 1940s, everybody seemed to have one of these games (The Wood Game.) It was a kind of obsesssion," said Peter Reynolds, who is one of a handful of craftsmen still making replicas of the popu- lar 1930s game. It takes Reynolds, 71, three I days to build the game from scratch, right down to the hand- crocheted nets,which are done by a friend.

When you play the game, you realize that it has more in com- mon with a pinball machine than a modern day tabletop hockey game. A plunger sets the ball rolling, a la face off, and a series of bumpers positioned on the playing surface act as players. There's no doubt that Munroe's original game, which he sold to Sears back then for $3.60, sparked demand for table- top hockey games.

In 1938, that demand was met by two Swedish businesswomen who released a game that would eventually be known as Stiga table hockey to table hockey players all over the world. "It's the world leader; the game of choice," said Bill Parker, GM of Stiga, North America, who claims Stiga sells about 300,000 games a year in Europe and another 100,000 in North America. "Every kid has one it seems."

Stiga is a name synonymous with tabletop hockey. If you ever played on a set in a friend's base- ment or at an arcade, chances are the design was modeled after a Stiga game. Stiga is the only tabletop hockey game to be officially licensed by the NHL, and are equipped with Original Six rivals Toronto Maple and Detroit Red Wings.