If you’ve ever been to Hot Shots Pub and Grub, you’ll notice people playing darts. It is, after all, the main venue for tournaments and leagues.
The darts you see are of the steel-tip sort, the kind you see on TV, but there are two more boards, by the front door of the pub that look a bit different.
Those are soft-tip dartboards and the man responsible for bringing them to Yellowknife is hoping they will become popular with paying customers and the city’s darts players alike.
Tim Griffin said the boards are open for free right now to allow people to get a feel for what it’s all about.
“I want to give the players some casual play because there’s still the case of getting parts for it and getting the Internet installed inside so players can play others around Canada and even around the world,” he said.
The Internet capability is what makes a soft-tip dartboard unique.
The board itself is computerized with thousands of holes for the darts to go in and the unit itself keeps score, taking the guesswork out of adding and subtracting. The Internet connectivity will allow people to take on others around the globe but don’t expect to play the top players when you start out.
Griffin said it’s set up in such a way you play against those with a similar average.
“For example, Jeff Smith is one of the best darts players in Canada, steel-tip or soft-tip, and his three-dart average is 107,” he said. “This evens things out in that you’ll play someone that’s close to what you average.”
To figure out what you average, anyone who signs up to play gets what’s called a ‘hot button’, which looks like a key fob. Players use these hot buttons to keep their stats updated.
“It follows you around and keeps your stats for you, no matter where you go,” said Griffin. “The better you get, the better chance you have to move up and start to challenge better players and even play in cash tournaments.”
Money is always a lure and there is plenty of it in the soft-tip world. The recent world championships in Kansas City, Missouri featured a total prize pot of $130,000. In North America alone, there’s more than $300,000 to play for on the Bull Shooter circuit, which is the circuit Griffin is aligned with.
“There’s 6,000 boards around North American and counting, so plenty of chances,” said Griffin.
The two boards at Hot Shots are what Griffin hopes will be the first of plenty in the city. He’s hoping to expand into other locations but he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I want to see what the numbers are on the system, how many people are playing and signing up as members, how business is at the bar,” he said. “I’ll keep bringing them in until I have enough in town and there’s the possibility of going around the territory as well if the demand is there.”
But what Griffin wants to do most with the boards is give players a chance to improve themselves enough that they can go to a tournament outside the NWT and do well.
“Unless you’re good enough, you can spend a lot of money to play in tournaments,” he said. “If you go to a tournament, you could run into a nationally-ranked player and the chances of beating them are pretty slim. I want to give people a nice experience here, give them a chance to play and get better. I’m not trying to push steel-tip darts away, I want to compliment what we already have.”