Kudos to Ken Dryden for a thoughtful, objective analysis of the state of hockey in North America today (A Game in Search of Some Contests, Oct. 8). Dryden, the consummate competitor on the ice, has pinpointed problems and offered solutions for a wonderful game that needs help. National Hockey League executives have watched Dryden perform brilliantly for years. Now they should begin listening to him.
NFL Management Council
New York City
The saying goes: "If 10 men tell you you're, drunk, you'd better lie down." Well, in the past decade more than 10 men have tried to warn ice hockey's leaders about the terminal effect violence has on the sport, and about the talent-diluting aspect of overexpansion.
North American hockey now is not only devoid of big league network television exposure, but it is also falling embarrassingly far behind European hockey in terms of skills—and embarrassingly far ahead in pointless violence. Let us hope that the game on all levels, from the Pee Wees to the NHL, will heed Ken Dryden's words and end the tragic cycle of hockey in the '70s.
KEVIN GERARD WOOLFORK
The problems of hockey go much deeper than the occasional violence of the NHL. At the age of 18 I quit the sport after being benched by coaches who emphasized checking and high sticking over skating and passing. Hockey can be as graceful as ballet. However, on the minor league level the game more often resembles a scene from Slapshot. During the 1970s, hockey has been criticized by players, booed by spectators and taken to court by lawyers. But the game will remain unchanged until individuals like Ken Dryden are part of the Establishment instead of just outspoken critics.
Ken Dryden's remarkable and all-encompassing insight into the woes of the National Hockey League is exceeded only by his eloquence. He should be considered for the presidency of the NHL in the not-too-distant future.
When you play the fastest sport around in an enclosed arena you are bound to get into fights. I guess Ken Dryden was too busy to notice this, studying for his bar exam and all. The fans love to see fights. This fact was acknowledged in your magazine once before by the best coach in hockey, Don Cherry, who said, "The people who pay the dough love fighting. It's part of the game and sells tickets" (The Wrath of Grapes, Jan. 15).
I also do not agree that the NHL needs big TV contracts. Look back at the U.S.-Soviet series and see how the games were chopped up on TV. You couldn't even follow the play. I am positive that hockey fans across the country are happy with their cable telecasts, which have only a fraction of the commercials of network telecasts and which also have announcers who know what they are talking about. Brent Musberger commenting on hockey?
For the last five years I have stood in line hours on end for Ranger tickets, only to be disappointed. The line in itself is a sight. As for Dryden saying that the talent won't get better with expansion, I give you the New York Islanders. Of course, they didn't set the world on fire in their very first year, but what do you expect?
Take my advice and pick on a dead sport like basketball.
EYES ON THE CUP
Over the years, the Boston Bruins seem to have surprised almost everyone, except us Bruin fans and themselves. E. M. Swift should have included the Bruins in the final four and probably should have picked them as champions in his scouting reports (Oct. 8).
South Boston, Mass.
Thank you for your articles on hockey by Ken Dryden and E. M. Swift. Dryden was especially interesting. We would disagree only with Swift's prediction of the New York Islanders as the Stanley Cup champions. As Dryden said, the Canadiens are a special team, "more than just a hockey team." Come May, Guy Lafleur and Les Habitants will once again be sipping champagne from Lord Stanley's cup.
Prairie Village, Kans.
You think the Pittsburgh Penguins goofed by trading Goalie Denis Herron and a draft choice to Montreal for reserve Forward Pat Hughes and minor league Goaltender Bob Holland? Maybe not. It seems to me that the Pittsburgh front office has heard that criticism before for exchanging well-liked, highly skilled players and draft picks for NHL unknowns. But these trades have resulted in Pittsburgh's acquisition of Orest Kindrachuk, Ron Lonsberry and Tom Bladon for a first-round draft choice. We got Peter Lee for Pierre Larouche and Gary McAdam for Dave Schultz. In the last year the front office has wheeled and dealed to bring Pittsburgh the likes of Dale Tallon, Rod Schutt, George Ferguson, Randy Carlyle, Gregg Sheppard and now Nick Libett. Looking over the list, I think the front office should get a pat on the back. In fact it did, with General Manager Baz Bastien receiving Executive of the Year honors from Hockey News. The Penguins have brought excellent hockey to Pittsburgh, and we thank them for that. So if the Herron deal was one-sided, maybe it will turn out to be right and our side will win in the end.
BLACKS IN BASEBALL
Your SCORECARD item (Oct. 8) suggesting that there is an "enduring color line" in baseball made some curious points. Among others were 1) that no more than 10% of recent top draft choices are black and 2) that with Willie Mays and Henry Aaron gone, blacks do not identify with baseball the way they once did. Omitted was the fact that according to the last census only 11% of the U.S. population is black. Thus, if the 10% figure compares unfavorably with basketball and football, I suggest that the latter sports have a disproportionately high share of black prospects. Concerning the absence of Mays and Aaron, if black youths cannot identify with the likes of Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Reggie Jackson, Jim Rice et al., then they probably cannot identify with the Ervings, McAdoos, Paytons and Simpsons.
Baseball may need more black managers, umpires and spectators, but it does not suffer from a lack of black players or stars.
H. W. MARLOW
Lake Zurich, Ill.
IF THE SHOE FITS...
This letter is just to point out how varied your subscribers are. My alltime favorite article is Ron Fimrite's VIEWPOINT (Oct. 8) on "the joy of sedentary life." I subscribe to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to read with wonder and amazement about all of those marvelously active people who parade through your pages as I lie propped up in bed. Nothing ails me. I'm just resting!
While I don't agree with Ron Fimrite's view on physical fitness, I do agree that everyone should decide for himself whether or not to keep fit. However, I am sure the space taken up by his article could have been put to better use, even if you had to put in another advertisement.
I subscribe to SI for the pleasure of reading about competition and the mental and physical abilities of the people who compete. Pardon me, but I don't recognize Fimrite's ability.
Walla Walla, Wash.
A big 10-4 for Sports Wit of the Year Frank Deford ("Lordy, Let Those Big Wheels Sing to Me," Oct. 1). Keep those big wheels and bonus pieces rolling.
Your article about Tyrone Malone and his trucks was most interesting and amusing. I hope, however, that Frank Deford never gets called upon to help out in Malone's pit crew. There might be a carburetor in de Ford, but there is no carburetor in de diesel.
FRANK GARRISON JR.
I guess I was just a little shocked to find out that your bonus piece was about trucks. Uh, well, it had nice photographs.
QUIRK & QUINN
In the Baseball roundup in your Oct. 8 issue, Kathleen Andria mentioned that Jamie Quirk set a record for most home runs (six) in a career for a player whose name begins with the letter Q. This can't be true. What about the exploits of Jack Quinn, who as a pitcher hit eight home runs, two more than Quirk, during his career? Quinn, who pitched for New York and Cincinnati, among others, between 1909 and 1932, also holds the record for most career victories (247) by a player whose name begins with Q.
MARK M. O'CONNELL
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