The Canadian National Darts Championships are happening in Saskatoon in June and Team NWT will be right there battling with the rest of the country.
And if what some of the team members are saying is true, this could be a good year.
The men’s and women’s teams were finalized at the NWT Darts Championships in Hay River last weekend with the top eight on each side getting a guaranteed team shirt. One of those is Keith Way, who won the men’s tournament after a battle with the ever-present Elvis Beaudoin. It came right down to the final day and both ended up tied with 81 legs won after the four rounds of play. Way ended up winning it on what’s known as the countback, where the head-to-head results are taken into account.
“We all knew whoever won the game between Elvis and I on the Saturday night (round three) was probably going to win it all,” he said.
There was an extended offer of playing one leg of 701 to break the tie but Way said both he and Beaudoin decided against it.
“We agreed not to do it and do the countback instead,” he said.
Danny Clouston ended up third overall with 78 legs won while two new faces – Sheh Murillo and Joe Laba – finished fifth and sixth respectively to earn their inaugural berths onto the men’s team.
“I like the line-up we have,” said Way. “Lots of good players and Joe and Sheh making it is good because it’s some fresh blood.”
Way’s win comes with a bonus prize in the form of being the NWT’s men’s representative for the World Cup qualifiers, which happens during the national championships. All of the provincial and territorial winners along with the top 16 ranked men’s players in Canada play off in a separate tournament to determine the Canadian team that will travel to Romania in October for the big show.
Three spots are up for grabs – the top-ranked men’s player in Canada is pre-qualified – and Way said it’s all about having a good day at the dartboard.
“It’s always exciting to play against the best in Canada,” he said. “It’s all mental preparation because you’re playing the board and not your opponent. All darts players handle the pressure differently but it’s the same format every year, the same setup every year.”
In terms of the women, Sam Bohnet was the only Yellowknife player to claim a guaranteed spot for Saskatoon while Kathy Hancock and Jen Lavers are alternates.
Randy Thompson, Darts NWT’s director, said the one thing impressed him the most was the amount of women who played.
“We had 24 playing and it’s been a few years since we’ve seen that many,” he said.
As for the lineup on both sides, Thompson said he likes what he sees.
“I would put the top five up against almost anyone in Canada right now, men and women,” he said. “We have a really strong lineup this year going to Saskatoon.”