For most people in the area who play soft tip darts, it's a chance to get out of the house from time to time, meet up with some friends and family, and enjoy some friendly competition.

There are two leagues in Portage, one based out of the Army and Navy and the other the Royal Canadian Legion. Throughout the fall and winter months, teams of 4 go head to head each week in various games and several tournaments are held in the region as well.

As the boards are electronic, players scores are tracked and at the end of the season, a provincial event is held where winners can earn their way to Las Vegas by winning the category that matches their skill level. Some teams win their way by luck of the draw and expenses are paid by the league while others choose to go but have to cover their expenses.

The National Dart Association hosts the massive event to end the season and players of all skill levels take part as anyone is eligible as long as they have played enough games during the year. There is everything from singles, doubles, mixed, team, and specialized categories that people can sign up for. Each year, close to 10 teams from the Portage la Prairie leagues take part and this year, things are a little more intense for one player.

Evan Suderman was born and raised in Portage and he has taken his abilities to the next level. So much so that he is a part of Team Canada's entry into the event as they battle for world supremacy. Suderman talks about how this happened.

"Throughout the year, when you're playing your regular season, they keep track of your stats weekly, and at the end of the year, they take a look at all the Canadians that are headed to Vegas. There's some from Quebec, Saskatchewan has a big soft tip base and a few other provinces too. They look at all the stats and the top four players, both men and women get to be on the playing roster for team Canada. They take the next four players for reserve in case somebody's sick or doesn't make it. I have been on the reserve list once but didn't get to play. And this year I ended up third overall in the country for men's. It's pretty exciting."

Suderman got his start in soft tip darts playing with his family but is now more active in the steel-tip category. The premise is the same but it is much more popular worldwide and players at the top can make millions. Suderman says he wants to improve even more and says that requires a lot of work.

"There's a lot of practice that goes into it. I think this is probably my seventh or eighth year at it, which might sound like a lot, but for others at the top, not so much. The main thing is a lot of practice at home and then I'm traveling as much as I can for events too. Steel tip is a slightly different game, but it definitely keeps the skills sharp for when you go back to the soft tip board."

Suderman will be playing in several different categories while in Vegas but the big one will be representing his country and he says that changes things up in a big way.

"Once you get an honor like that, you don't want to disappoint. Some great teams are going to be there. Spain, Germany and others are always there and the U. S. is always one of the powerhouses. It's still gonna be fun for sure, but certainly a different mindset going to Vegas this year."

evan and cindyThe Suderman's are making it a family affair, Evan's mom Cindy is also an accomplished player and is in Vegas as well.

Clint Cairns is another Portager at the event with his team and while they do try and win, it's more about the experience. Cairns has been to the event several times and says you get to meet people from all around the world. He adds it's a little different playing in a room with hundreds of dart boards and well over a thousand teams. Cairns will be playing Angie Hourie, Charla Bullock, and Farrol Asham and they are obviously excited.

"Last year we had a great showing and made it the final day. It didn't go our way, but we did well. Plus we're just happy to go. We got to play a team from Alaska last year and that was a first for us. Teams from all around the U. S. and Canada as well. There's so many people playing but you never really have to go into it thinking that everybody's so much better than you are. You're always playing teams in your class, it's just whoever is better that day. And if you lose, you get more time to explore the city and enjoy the sun."

Games in the different events start today and run through until Wednesday with the team event finals for all skill levels finishing on Sunday. The international challenge which Suderman is taking part in happens on Sunday.


team photoBullock, Cairns and Hourie getting ready to enjoy some sun as they board their flight to Las Vegas Thursday.