A winter that wasn’t casts pall over Langford Park Hockey’s outdoor identity

By Bill Brady

“Outdoor ice is what we are about,” says the website for Langford Park Hockey. But this winter has been so mild that the rec center’s three outdoor skating rinks opened for only 10 days the entire season. Even the 6.9-inch snowfall on Valentine’s Day came too late — the city had already returned the necessary equipment to storage for the year.

“We lost weeks of outdoor evening practices,” said LPH Board President Laura Mays. “We also lost the main winter school break activity. I wasn’t sure what to do with my kids. They usually burn 8-10 hours of energy racing around the ice rink every day.”

Soaring temps even forced the cancellation of the historic 65th LPH Winter Classic hockey tournament on the last weekend of January.

“I was going to play on the Squirt C team and it got cancelled,” said a disappointed Henry Thomford in an interview with WCCO-TV at the time. His equally despondent younger brother Norman, a Mite, added: “Mother Nature had a lot of heat and just dumped it on the ice.”

The soggy 2024 season was in marked contrast to the year before, when it was so cold for the Winter Classic that the official time clock kept freezing and stopping. “This year I bought a small igloo to keep the equipment warm but visible,” said Mays. Turns out she needn’t have worried.

The final call to cancel was made on the Wednesday before the tournament was to start on Friday, Jan. 26. They had previously arranged for the North Dale Rec Center to serve as the backup venue, but even their refrigerated outdoor rink couldn’t hold up in the heat.

Moving the tournament indoors was a non-starter — it would have been too expensive even if space could have been found at a rink, whose schedules are booked months in advance. Rescheduling on site also didn’t feel like an option. “Looking at extended weather forecasts, we couldn’t (and still don’t) expect we’ll ever get our outdoor rink back up this year,” Mays noted ruefully.

Should warmer winters become the norm rather than the exception, it could have serious financial implications for the Langford Park program. “I don’t see us being able to afford enough indoor ice as an alternative,” Mays said. However she tries to maintain an optimistic outlook. “If the warming trend keeps occurring, we will find creative alternatives. I just keep repeating the mantra, ‘Next year is gonna be GREAT!’ ” 

Bill Brady is the Bugle copy editor. His son Nick played for Langford Park Hockey back in the day.

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