Justin Flores is New York's only air hockey master

BROOKLYN, New York -- A few blocks north of Prospect Park, where players with sticks and pucks glide across the ice all winter long, a man in a dimly-lit basement bar practices his own kind of hockey.

The difference between Justin Flores and the ice skaters? It's doubtful any of them are ranked top 10 in the world in their sport.

"The table is a great equalizer," said Flores, while wiping down a vintage air hockey table with rubbing alcohol. "Short, tall, big, skinny, young or old, it doesn't matter. The table is a great way to level the playing field."

Flores grew up in Houston. So did air hockey, first gaining notoriety at a few local bars and the University of Houston in the mid-70s after it was invented in the late-60s.

As a U of H student in the late-2000s, Justin was assigned by the school paper to take photos at a world championship the university hosted. He fell in love with the game and never looked back.

In a decade, Justin rose from beginner to the top-tier of elite air hockey players worldwide. Anyone who finishes in the top 10 at a world tournament is considered a master; top five, a grandmaster.

With a strong finish at the Air Hockey Players Association Air Hockey World Championships in Colorado Springs this July, New York's only master can now legitimately claim to be one of the best players in the world.

"I actually got the master rank of number eight in the world," said Flores. "I'm still hoping for that top five and I'm still working towards it."

Justin puts in the work at places like Ocean's 8, and a few other local bars that have regulation-sized tables. Between pursuing an engineering degree at NYU Tandon, training an air hockey disciple, and being profiled in the New York Times for his air hockey prowess, Justin's table is pretty full.

But not too full to take on Eyewitness News' sports anchor, Ryan Field, in a round of head-to-head plastic puck combat.

Does Ryan's bag of tricks give him a winning edge, or does the master ultimately prevail?
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After placing 8th in the world at the Air Hockey Players Association World Championships in July, Justin Flores is gliding high as New York's only air hockey player with the rank o