New Brunswick team takes the darts trophy

August 21, 2017 by Stephen J. Thorne
National team champions Ike Mullin (left), Mark Hebert, Scott Tracy and Derek Hanley from Blacks Harbour Branch in Pennfield, New Brunswick.
Stephen J. Thorne

It was an emotional moment for Mark Hebert after he threw the winning dart for his team from Blacks Harbour, N.B., Branch at the Dominion Command Darts Championships on May 5-7.

Besides the darts, the entire weekend hosted by Eastern Irrigation District Branch in Brooks, Alta., was full of high spirits and old-fashioned camaraderie.

The four-man teams from New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador were locked in a tie at
19 points after two days of round-robin
play. New Brunswick took the first game in a best-of-three playoff to decide the winner and both teams were sitting on doubles to take the second.

“When I walked to the line, all I said was, ‘Dad, help me,’” said Hebert. “Just hit that one double—that’s all I was hoping for. And I hit the double-six.”

Hebert’s father, a merchant mariner and later a mechanic at the former Lantic Sugar refinery in Saint John, N.B., died 19 years ago. Hebert couldn’t hold back the tears amid the hugs, cheers and celebrations of teammates Ike Mullin, Derek Hanley and Scott Tracy that followed the swift victory over a steady team from Channel Branch in Port aux Basques, N.L.

“My team has been so incredible,” he said. “We’ve got two seconds and a third in the last four years and we just wanted to get lucky on one of them. We got fortunate, we hit the double and we went on from there.”

The Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario team of Scott Allan Sansom and Dean Corlett from Elmwood Branch in Winnipeg took the doubles title and Ontario’s Jim Long, hailing from Newbury Branch, took the singles.

Singles champion Jim Long from Newbury Branch in Ontario.
Stephen J. Thorne

“The competition was very stiff,” said Long, an autoworker from Ingersoll, Ont., who joined the Legion in 1998. “Then there’s the added pressure to do well for the guys you’re representing. But it was fun. They did an amazing job.”

The players from Port aux Basques—Tom Brake, Guy Bobbett, Paul Osmond and Danny Cormier—led most of Sunday but couldn’t come up with one last win in the round-robin’s final game against Saskatchewan, to clinch the team title, forcing the playoff.

The Sunday afternoon drama, followed by a prime rib banquet, wrapped a weekend of collegial competition, laughter and comaraderie for 50 players from 15 branches representing all 10 commands of The Royal Canadian Legion.

It also represented the culmination of a lot of hard work by President Lloyd Hasper and his team of some 50 volunteers that began with price negotiations and room reservations 18 months before, then expanded out into the community and beyond. “The city was behind us 100 per cent,” said Hasper.

Doubles champions Dean L. Corlett (left) and Scott Allan Sansom from Manitoba’s Elmwood Branch in Winnipeg.
Stephen J. Thorne

Dozens of sponsors signed on, providing food and support for the local Legion situated in the heart of oil, cattle and irrigation lands a 90-minute drive southeast of Calgary. Other branches chipped in. Chapelhow in Calgary and Vulcan Branch provided vans and drivers, while Redcliff Branch stepped up with a van.

Local media furnished free publicity. The Brooks air cadet squadron provided the colour party and catered Sunday’s banquet.

“This was a big deal around here,” said Hasper, who has belonged to six different Legion branches and served on the executives of four of them over the past 40 years. He wore a blue volunteer shirt and got down and dirty like everyone else.

“This Legion has got one of the best volunteer-based groups that I’ve been involved with. When push comes to shove, they’re all here to help us.”

Started by First World War veterans, Eastern Irrigation District Branch will be celebrating its 90th birthday next April. The town population was about 1,200 in 1928, but it would grow—and so would the Legion. It peaked at around 800 members before numbers fell off as the pictures with poppies attached began to take up more and more of the wall near the front door.

Home of the cutter bee—which pollinates area alfalfa crops—Brooks itself, population now 14,000, has faced hard times. Wells are only just getting back online after low oil prices forced shutdowns all over the region.

Elsie Bunney, 86, has been a member of the branch for 60 years. She came to the prairie town from Leader, Sask., to waitress at age 23 and oversaw branch dining staff for years. She was ladies auxiliary president twice and served as the branch’s assistant manager—briefly. “I didn’t like it,” she says. “I like to be out here with the people.”

Bunney has seen all the ups and downs. With the town’s growth came more competition for the dollar. These days, the branch is climbing back up. Thursday beer bag nights and Friday steak nights are bringing people in again. Membership is at 400, and growing. “We’ve got good food here,” she said.

Besides giving the branch a boost, Hasper noted, the tournament brought people together from across the country.

“We made a lot of good friends this weekend—and a lot of good friends leading up to it,” he said. “I’ve been talking to branches for months. So when they come in here, you feel like you know them and you can sit down and talk. You have good conversations about what other Legions do to make money.

“Our aim, as a branch, was to put on the best time we could for everybody, to make it a class act. And I think we’ve done that.”

Darts Results

Team: N.B. (Blacks Harbour Br.) 21; N.L. (Channel Br., Port aux Basques) 19; Alta-N.W.T. (Jubilee Br., Calgary) 16; Ont. (Thamesville Br.), Que. (Terrebonne Heights Br., Mascouche Heights) 14; Man.-N.W.O. (Elmwood Br., Winnipeg) 13; N.S./Nunavut (Westville Br.) 12; B.C./Yukon (Kamloops Br.) 11; P.E.I. (Miscouche Br.) 10; Sask. (Nipawin) 7.

Doubles: Man.-N.W.O. (Elmwood Br.) 20; N.B. (Blacks Harbour Br.), N.S./Nunavut (Westville Br.) 17; Alta.-N.W.T. (Jubilee Br.) 16; Que. (Terrebonne Heights Br.) 14; Ont. (Bay Bridges Br., Pickering) 13; B.C./Yukon (Grandview Br., Vancouver), P.E.I. (Miscouche Br.) 12; N.L. (Channel Br.) 8; Sask. (Moose Jaw Br.) 6.

Singles: Ont. (Newbury Br.)20; B.C./Yukon (Grandview Br.),N.B. (Blacks Harbour Br.) 19; Alta.-N.W.T. (Jubilee Br.)18; N.S./Nunavut (Westville Br.)17; N.L. (Channel Br.) 13; Man.-N.W.O. (Flin Flon Br.) 9; Sask. (Moose Jaw Br.), Que. (Terrebonne Heights Br.) 7; P.E.I. (Miscouche Br.) 6.

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