Letter: The death of a St. Anthony Park/Langford tradition

For 55 years our little rec center down in Langford Park has hosted a Winter Classic weekend filled with winter sports tournaments and memories.

I grew up in [St. Anthony Park] and fondly remember playing in the annual basketball tournament and spending basically the entire weekend at the park eating nothing but hot dogs and chili while searching with my friends for the winter medallion. Most of the kids who grew up playing either hockey or basketball remember this weekend for the ultimate feeling of community that occurred when hundreds of families converged on the rec center for the dual basketball and hockey tournaments.

Half my friends played basketball, half played hockey, and we all spent the weekend together sharing our stories of our tournament experiences. I now coach basketball down at Langford and loved being able to see my players experience the excitement and pride in their rec center for hosting an amazing weekend of sports and community.

All of that, in the blink of an eye, was wiped out this year. There were still basketball and hockey tournaments, they were just held on separate weekends. There was no interaction between hockey and basketball players and families. The weekend of the basketball tournament Langford Rec Center was mostly quiet. The 12U boys played an amazingly exciting matchup between the two Langford teams for first place, but they played those games over at Merriam Park. Most of my kids did not even get to step foot in Langford, their home court, all weekend long. There were no girls’ basketball tournaments at all.

My team did not get to see their friends and siblings play in games, they did not get to search for a medallion, they did not get to eat those Slapshot Combos that we all love.

As someone who grew up here and loves the traditions that we celebrate, I can honestly and very sadly say that these kids have been robbed of a glorious experience. Whatever the word is for the opposite of community building, this is its definition.

To the people who made this decision and executed it with the callousness I never thought existed here in our neighborhood, I hope that this year was only an experiment and that next year all the young athletes we are raising down at Langford Park get to experience the Winter Classic in the park together.

Todd Nakanishi, Langford 12U boys basketball coach

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