Letter: ‘Everything I know about hockey I learned at Langford’

As I am not particularly athletic or competitive, it did not surprise my relatives and friends on the East Coast when I mentioned that one of my daughters was playing hockey on one of the most laid-back teams (Langford Park) at the most laid-back level (C) in St. Paul.

They were surprised, however, when I explained that she still had practice or a game four or five times a week.

Often outside.

And she is only 12.

And this was her eighth season.

There was always a pause in the conversation at this point while they did the math to figure out that she was 5 when she started. Only in Minnesota.

Since her club is co-ed and playing another year would involve 160-pound ninth-grade boys checking her into the boards, this was her last season at Langford Park, and now that it is over I am feeling nostalgic.

Neither my wife nor I were hockey people. We were only interested because the outdoor rink was a three-minute walk from our house. As a result, everything I know about hockey I learned at Langford Park.

I learned that 5- to 13-year-old boys are surprisingly well behaved when it comes to the small minority of girls on the team. Once the helmets are on, they cheer and fist-bump the girls just as much as the boys. Maybe they should keep the helmets on all the time. I learned that neither city staff nor ice elves maintain the outdoor rinks, but rather rotating crews of parents and neighbors, including some who have been doing it for 30-plus years. I am clearly not the sharpest skate in the hockey bag because it took me a year to figure out why we scored so rarely on power plays. At Langford Park all the kids play equally—there is no “power play” squad stacked with the best players that comes out to take advantage when a player on the opposing team heads to the penalty box. Unlike Ogilvie and Lupus in the Bad News Bears, no one on a Langford Park team sits on the bench longingly until the coach has an epiphany during the last game of the season to play everyone. I also learned that a 12-year-old girl (one of my other daughters) is better at operating the clock and scoreboard than a 42-year-old man. Better than this 42-year-old man anyway. More important, perhaps what I learned in eight years at Langford Park Hockey is relevant to life in general: 1. Treat everyone the same. 2. Large groups of people need to work together to make something great. 3. Give everyone a chance. 4. Don’t try to compete with a 12-year-old girl. Derek Fried St. Anthony Park

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