Dockey – Stoke on Trent

This is one of 40 stories from my book

Sports the Olympics Forgot

which is available here

The game of Dockey is a combination of the sports of Darts and Hockey. The origins of the game are obscured in a midwinter’s drinking session in a pub by the local hockey team, who were arguing about who could throw a dart with the most accuracy over the length of a hockey pitch.

 

The issue was resolved the following day. The dartboard was nailed to the crossbar of one of the hockey goals and all the players stood at the opposite end of the pitch. It was found that no one could throw the dart more than halfway even with a hangover. Some spare dartboards were found and given to five players. The goalkeeper was given a dart and he threw it to the nearest player who caught it in his dartboard. He then passed to the next player up the pitch and this continued until the crossbar dartboard was in range.

 

Any player can throw the dart into the crossbar dartboard and wherever the dart lands counts towards the team’s score. The goalkeeper doesn’t have a dartboard but still has a hockey stick to stop the dart with. If the dart lands in the hockey stick then the goalkeeper has control of the dart and can initiate the next attack for his team. If the dart lands on the ground then anyone can pick it up and the game continues.

 

The following Saturday it was decided to hold the first ever dockey game, between members of the same hockey team. The contest was 6-a-side and had two halves, each of forty minutes. They found that four officials were needed; one in each goalmouth to take note of the score when the dart lands in the board and two umpires one in each half.

 

Injuries were anticipated so all the players wore goggles to protect their eyes, both from bangs on the head from other player’s boards and from errant darts that had been inaccurately thrown.

The game starts when the Starter Umpire throws the dart into the air and whichever player catches the dart in his board has control of the game. If the dart lands on the ground then there is a restart.

 

Players who trip, barge, or impede their opponents can have fouls awarded against them, which results in a free throw, As in football, if the foul occurs in the penalty area then a free throw at the dartboard can be awarded from the penalty spot, which the goalkeeper isn’t allowed to intercept.

 

Once the player catches the dart in his board he is allowed to only take two further strides before coming to a halt, otherwise he will be penalized for travelling by the Watching Umpire. He then has ten seconds to get rid of the dart otherwise he will be timed out.

 

After the first game it was determined that every player should be fully up-to-date with their tetanus injections before they play, as there were a number of puncture wounds when players misjudged the flight of the dart and it landed in them rather than their dartboard.

 

The game gradually spread throughout the Potteries and the first Stoke championships were held in 1967 when the Port Vale Hurlers beat the Hanley Arms 1239 – 873 in the final. The biggest difference in this game was that the Hurlers played their best dart thrower, Adrian Taylor, up front and he took the majority of the throws at the board, even scoring two treble-twenties from the penalty spot.

 

The Hurlers won the next two Potteries championships too and also the first ever National Dockey Championships, held at Wembley in August 1970. The Hurlers were superseded by the Keele Basketball team in 1971 and for a while tall teams were all the vogue until the arrival on the scene of Paul Johnston from the Stoke City Club, who was the first person to pioneer the underarm throw to boards carried low down to the ground, thus negating the height advantage of taller players.

 

Johnston’s team carried all before them for a decade, even winning the first ever world championships held in Beirut in 1977 when teams from Commonwealth countries such as Pakistan and Australia tended to dominate.

 

Although goggles are mandatory, teams are not allowed to wear protective helmets, shoulder pads, or gloves, although knee pads and elbow protectors are allowed. It is illegal to deliberately catch the dart in this protection and a foul will be awarded against a player who does this.

 

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