By Craig Swalboski
When it’s time for darts league, players gather at the assigned bar at the assigned time. They take turns throwing, compliment each other on good shots, maybe have a drink or two.
But now local players can compete in leagues with opponents across town — or farther.
Ten teams go head to head in a Friday night mixed league, without having to shoot at the same board, or even be in the same room.
The newest generation of dart boards has software capable of connecting players on different boards, not only in Rochester but in other towns. “We have friends in Waterville (67 miles from Rochester) and now we can play them in a league,” said Christy Helmer.
It’s not just a social benefit for Christy and her husband/teammate David.
“It broadens your competition,” she said, who, along with David, plays darts three or four nights a week, year-round. “A lot of women especially are not as active, so you play a lot of the same people all the time.”
The Friday league has teams from Dodge Center, Albert Lea and Owatonna, as well as several other Rochester sites.
Because they play so frequently, the Helmers like being able to make the short drive from their northwest Rochester home to Rooster’s for the Friday remote league.
“There’s an advantage to playing at your local place,” Christy said.
So what is it like playing darts with competitors who aren’t at the bar with you?
“Kind of like a video game,” Christy said. The “picture in a picture” style windows on the scorekeeping screen show the opponents as they shoot, and also their board.
David notes that some players add to the experience by texting during the match, sending their kudos for good shots and other chit chat. David actually prefers remote play to having an entire league at one site.
“I don’t like crowds,” he said. It doesn’t affect his play, but he likes the non-hassle factor. “The other night there were 16 of us in one corner of a place, I didn’t have anywhere to sit,” he said.
Christy notes that in the second year of remote play for her, she’s noticed an improvement in the software.
The Helmers would love to have a machine like this in their home, and for $6,000 or so, they could; league play is not permitted from homes, however, so if they want to compete, they have to go to Roosters.
Eventually, as dart sites need to replace their boards with new ones, they’ll all have capability of playing remotely, and many more leagues will play that way, offering more players an opportunity to play darts.
Want to join a league?
D& R Star darts leagues generally run from October to March, with seasons spanning several weeks. Those interested in playing should call D&R Star at 507-402-0443.
“We can usually find a team for them to play on,” says Todd Coughlin, the company’s dart league coordinator.
Several sites are used for league play. Only one league currently plays remotely.