NEW! Canadian Military History Trivia Challenge

Canadian Military History Trivia Challenge

Take the quiz and Win a Trivia Challenge prize pack!

Canadian Military History Trivia Challenge

Take the quiz and Win a Trivia Challenge prize pack!

Concentration Wins The Darts Game

Darts is an infuriating game. What should be simple—throwing a steel-tipped projectile 2.37 metres into a cork target—is at times intricately, impossibly complex. Simply making the dart do what you want, when you want, repeatedly—this is harder than might be imagined.

At least it is hard for most of us. Certain people—like the competitors at the 37th Legion Dominion Command Darts Championships, held May 13-15 at Col. Fred Tilston VC Branch in Aurora, Ont.—have pretty much mastered the complex skill of making the simple little dart do what you want.

But yet, that’s not to say the tournament held no drama, because the pressure of competition makes the game even tougher. Competitors like Jim Long of Newbury, Ont., Branch have spent countless hours travelling to and from district, zone and provincial tournaments, practiced endlessly, taken time off work and generally done an immeasurable amount to simply get here—and each moment they spent getting here weighs on the arm and hand, adds weight to the moment, conspires to seize up things that need to remain relaxed.

“There are so many miniscule things that can go wrong,” said Long who won this year’s singles championships in rather spectacular fashion. “Sometimes I go to shoot and my arm just stiffens up,” he says, making a grinding noise as he holds his arm out. “You just focus on the shot, past your nerves. A lot of the time your mind wanders to ‘I don’t want to miss,’ and especially when there’s a lot riding on it, it’s just about keeping your mind on what you’re doing instead of what happens if you miss. The guys who win are guys who have mastered their nerves.”

Long, himself, is one of those masters. Joining him on the short list of winners at this year’s Dominion tournament were the Nova Scotian duo of Chris Steiger and Jerry Myles in doubles and the Newfoundland-based team of Thomas Organ, Adam Bullen, Brian Joy and Leslie Hulan.

These players—and many others, too—had made the journey to play at Col. Fred Tilston VC Branch, a sprawling structure in Aurora, a fairly sleepy northern suburb of metropolitan Toronto.

Early on Saturday morning, the players arrived at the branch and stood outside, stoically enduring a light drizzle to attend a wreath-placing ceremony and afterward hear words of welcome from Dominion Command Sports Committee Chairman Dave Flannigan.

“On behalf of Dominion President Pat Varga and myself, I bring you greetings from the bottom of our hearts,” he said. “When members talk about dominion sports, the first thing that comes to mind is darts. Darts is probably the top and probably will never ever be replaced. So congratulations on meeting this milestone to be able to represent your province and I hope you do really well.”

Just after the introductions concluded, a captains meeting was held at which one important amendment to the rules was made. The captains unanimously voted to have a two-out-of-three round-robin playoff to settle any ties. So the format for the event would be an initial round-robin phase followed by the top two teams having a playoff for the championship. In the event of a tie, the teams involved would have a playoff before the championship.

In any case, it wasn’t long before the darts started flying. After the singles competition’s first few rounds, few in the crowd were willing to speculate as to the eventual winner.

Just past halfway through the tournament, however, Long and John Markham of Cloverdale Branch in Surrey, B.C., had emerged as the leaders, if only by a slim one- or two-point margin.

In the round robin’s final matchup, the two leaders were caught by Fred McKinnon of Carleton Branch in Saint John, N.B. With all three players tied, there would need to be a three-way round-robin playoff in order to determine which two players would contest the single championship final.

McKinnon and Markham were up first and McKinnon took it in short order. Then Long took on Markham and dispatched him, effectively knocking the West Coaster from the tournament. After a perfunctory round-robin match between McKinnon and Long, which Long won, the two players got a few seconds to rest before the championship match.

In the final, Long and McKinnon split the first two games, leading to a winner-take-all final game showdown. Long made no mistake doubling in on his first turn and when McKinnon missed the double-in on his turn, the crowd gasped. Long never looked back, throwing a tight game to come up with the championship.

Long has been playing darts in the Legion system since about 1998, and while he’s been to the dominion championships a few times before, this was his first time making the tournament in singles.

Long’s secret, he says, is a combination of focus and consistency. “The big thing is, your shots have to be the same all the time, your arm and your mechanics have to be the same.

“When I was there, shooting for the championship, you know what I’m thinking? Nothing.”

Shortly after Long’s victory, the darts were flying again as the doubles competition kicked off.

After the end of regulation shooting, Chris Steiger and Jerry Myles of Centennial Branch in Dartmouth were the clear leaders. British Columbians John Markham and Jim Hooker of Cloverdale Branch joined Jason Hurley and Gerald Hull from LaSalle, Que., Branch in a tie for second, which meant a preliminary playoff round before the championship showdown. British Columbia won with a few swift shots from their star singles player Markham.

In the final round, B.C. won the first game with, again, a few shots from the eagle-eyed Markham, but Nova Scotia, led by the high-scoring Steiger charged back in the second game in order to set up another winner-take-all final. Nova Scotia shot closest to the bull to get the start, and then Myles wasted no time getting the East Coasters rolling on the scoreboard. They never looked back and Steiger made no mistake closing it out for a Nova Scotia victory.

After an ample amount of camaraderie at the branch on Saturday night, the team event kicked off early on Sunday morning and ran for the better part of the day.

The team from Swansea Branch in Toronto—Roy Jacobs, Paul Carlson, Andy Rust and Gary Robinson—ended regulation play all alone in first place. In the final, they would play Newfoundland and Labrador players from Stephenville Branch, Thomas Organ, Leslie Hulan, Adam Bullen and Brian Joy.

The final match was just about as raucous and wild as a darts game could probably ever be. The East Coasters were whipped up in a frenzy of competitive excitement as the teams split the first two games. In the final match, Ontario held a lead running all the way down from 701 and when Ontario’s ace shooter stepped up to try to hit a double for the win, it seemed like the match was over. But he missed. Newfoundland’s Organ charged into place and in a flurry of darts and an ear-splitting chorus of “Yes Boys!” it was all over. Newfoundland and Labrador were the 2011 Dominion team darts champions.

“We were just hoping they would miss,” said Joy, after the match. “We don’t want to wish bad darts against anybody, but we were hoping we’d get one shot.”

And they got it.

“We came all this way, you know? And if we were going to do it, here was the chance. We knew we wouldn’t get another shot. But we had to have that miss by them. It was so close, either team could have won.”

With that, there was nothing left to do but have the traditional closing banquet and then head for home.

“The competition was top-notch,” said Rick Preston, Local Arrangements Committee chairman and president of Fred Tilston VC Branch, “there were a lot of great games right down to the final game…Ontario had their chance—they had their double—and they missed it. And Newfoundland finished it off with theirs.”


Team: Nfld.-Lab. (Stephenville Br.) 18; Ont. (Swansea Br., Toronto) 20; Que. (LaSalle Br.) 16; N.B. (Carleton Br., Saint John) 16; N.S./Nunavut (Centennial Br., Dartmouth) 15; Man.-N.W.0. (Selkirk Br.) 13; P.E.I. (Charlottetown Br.) 11; Sask. (Moose Jaw Br.) 9; B.C./Yukon (Cranbrook Br.) 9; Alta.-N.W.T. (Ogden Br., Calgary) 8.

Doubles: N.S./Nunavut (Chris Steiger, Jerry Myles, Centennial Br.) 20; B.C./Yukon (John Markham, Jim Hooker, Cloverdale Br.) 19; Que. (Jason Hurley, Gerald Hull, LaSalle Br.) 19; Man.-N.W.O. (David Hendy, Scott Sansom, Selkirk Br.) 18; Nfld.-Lab. (Leslie Hulan, Brian Joy, Stephenville Br.) 15; Ont. (Nickolus McCoy, Dave Richardson, Wiarton Br.) 13; N.B. (Kerry Way, Rick McIsaac, Oromocto Br.) 11; Alta.-N.W.T. (Garth Lamb, Rick Woppel, Ogden Br.) 10; Sask. (David Propp, Earl Sterling-Brown, Nipawin Br.) 7; P.E.I. (Peter Holden, Darren MacNevin, Charlottetown Br.) 3.

Singles: Ont. (Jim Long, Newbury Br.) 17; N.B. (Fred McKinnon, Carleton Br.) 17; B.C./Yukon (John Markham, Cloverdale Br.) 17; P.E.I. ( Frank Cudmore, Charlottetown Br.) 15; Nfld.-Lab. (Thomas Organ, Stephenville Br.) 14; N.S./Nunavut (Rod Snow, Centennial Br.) 13; Man.-N.W.O. (Ryan Tkach, West Kildonan Br., Winnipeg) 12; Que. (Sebastien Gagnon, LaSalle Br.) 12; Sask. (Curtis Gamble, Moose Jaw Br.) 9; Alta.-N.W.T. (George Rowland,
Ogden Br.) 9.


Sign up today for a FREE download of Canada’s War Stories

Free e-book

An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.