Who Are Those Puckers?

Air hockey gets serious

There is an air hockey universe, and its center is Houston. If you stumble across the puck scene here, chances are you'll meet the world's top male and female players, Danny Hynes and Niki Jaquette. Houston is home to the largest organized group of air hockey players in the country -- and the highest concentration of nationally ranked champs.And they like to play rough. Air hockey guru Brian Accrocco, who's ranked ninth in the world, wears a knee pad to matches. Apparently the local competitors are hungry for new (and more) blood. "Anybody can be great at this," he says. So polish your mallet and practice your mallet flick (you'll find that air hockey players act as cocky as Tom Cruise in The Color of Money). Tournaments are handicapped to ensure that each contestant gets a fair shake. 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Celebration Station, 6767 Southwest Freeway, 713-981-7888; and 9 p.m. Thursdays at Shooters, 6306 Richmond Avenue, 713-952-9628. For more information, contact Brian Accrocco at 832-492-0302 or visit www.texasairhockey.com. $3 to $6, free for first-timers. -- Eric Norvell

SAT 3/15
Human Races
Gulf Greyhound Park's Leprechaun Iditarod is named after the grueling 1,110-mile sled dog race held each year in Alaska. But this race doesn't involve dogs or 1,110 miles -- try humans and 75 yards. Teams of six will compete, each spurred on by a leprechaun musher. The park will also offer Celtic music, green beer and Irish treats like corned beef and cabbage. Proceeds from corporate participants benefit the Little People's Association(!). Registration is free for noncorporate entries. Sign up your team at 6 p.m. Race time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15. I-45 South (exit 15) in La Marque. For information, call 1-800-275-2946 or visit www.gulfgreyhound.com. $1 admission. -- Cathy Matusow

FRI 3/14
For the Birds
On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt declared Pelican Island (off the coast of Florida) a bird refuge. Now, 100 years later, the National Wildlife Refuge System protects 95 million acres of land, including the San Bernard refuge ten miles south of Lake Jackson. To mark the eco-anniversary, this year's Migration Celebration is offering free refuge tours, live animal exhibits, bird banding demonstrations (which show how birds are marked to track migratory patterns) and hands-on science projects for kids. You can also trek off on your own and try to spot an elusive bufflehead. Or you could raise the stakes a little: Twenty bucks says you can't find a purple gallinule. Friday, March 14, through Sunday, March 16. San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Jackson. For information and directions, call 888-477-2503. For a map and full schedule, visit www.refugefriends.org. -- Troy Schulze

 
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