Chair Game

When the Phoenix Coyotes fail and the Arizona Diamondbacks don't deliver, it might be time to invest our loyalty in a new breed of athlete -- one the average office Joe can relate to.

Representing every cubicle-dwelling dweeb and hardworking, soft-bellied stiff of corporate America, the fourth annual Aeron Chair Office Hockey Tournament rolls into Scottsdale's Galleria Corporate Centre this Thursday, June 3.

Sixteen teams from local architecture and commercial real estate firms -- armed with hockey sticks, pucks and savvy business brainpower -- compete for the coveted Aeron Cup and raise money for the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). Since its beginnings, the tournament has raised more than $38,000 for the Phoenix charity.

In this quirky hockey game, the "ice" is actually a marble floor, and these armchair athletes don stylish Aeron office chairs instead of ice skates. The ergonomic seats are a hot commodity in the workplace, and wheeling around in one unleashes pent-up 9-to-5 aggression.

"These guys compete with each other every day [at work], and here they're competing physically," says Adam Goodman, president of Goodman's Office Furniture in Phoenix and creator of the tournament. "That's where it gets fun."

Some standard hockey rules apply, as do a few new guidelines. Players can't get out of their chairs or attempt to tip over other competitors. If one breaks the rules, he must enter the penalty box, where he's mercilessly spun in his chair 10 times and quickly forced back into the game. No teeth have been lost yet -- only a few innocent pocket protectors -- but Goodman warns against assuming that the competition is for wimpy, white-collar geeks.

"These guys are smashing into each other, scrambling around in their chairs," he says. "Some teams are in it just to have fun, but some of these guys are really in it to win."

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Ashlea Deahl