HOME ON THE RANGERS
Congratulations to William Leggett for his perceptive article on the plight of the New York Ranger hockey team and its followers (In New York, Hockey's House Is Not a Home, March 8). As a long-suffering fan, I can only say amen to such well directed and richly deserved criticisms of the Madison Square Garden Corporation for its policy of profits without playoffs.
MICHAEL F. SULLIVAN
In Boston we have a hockey team that loses consistently and avoids playoffs like the plague, yet it, too, draws crowds like the Rangers. The difference is that in Boston we don't have any superstars to trade away.
Leggett lists the players the Rangers have traded away in recent years. They may constitute an all-star team, as he says, but it would be a very old one. Andy Bathgate, when traded, was past his prime, and the Henry trade brought the Rangers three up-and-coming young players, an addition that has already begun to show results. Meanwhile, the expanded farm system has produced such young players as Rod Gilbert and Rod Soiling, already established major leaguers at a tender age.
The incentive to play hockey in New York may be somewhat lacking, but the very fact that Cammy Henry was disheartened on leaving shows that all players do not feel the same way. As far as being recognized on the street, would a baseball player like Roger Maris or Whitey Ford, familiar faces to the American sports fan, be noticed on a Montreal street? Probably not.
Leggett sees the onslaught of colored rubber balls at the Garden as a form of fan frustration, but to me it seems like a type of oddball enthusiasm. If the same antics are repeated at a Met game—as they probably will be—they will be hailed as a show of affection. The fact that the Rangers have played to 90% capacity for the current season indicates the real enthusiasm of the fans, who support the team no matter where it stands.
Granted that blame for the team's previous failure must be shouldered by the management, Emile Francis has already begun the tedious work of rebuilding, and his courage in trading away an aging drawing card for future success indicates better things to come. Maybe not in the next few years, but soon indeed.
I do not believe Leggett's criticism of New-York is fair. In New York we have so much of spectator interest—the opera, theaters, orchestras, clubs, galleries, as well as other sports—that a player cannot, and should not, expect the same adulation found in the other league towns. In Toronto, for example, hockey is blown out of all sporting perspective. Why? Because there is so little else of interest in Toronto.
Instead of adoration. New York offers its players the finest recreation and entertainment center in North America and the most dynamic and exciting city in which to live—or work. In 1967 the Rangers will move into the new Madison Square Garden. It will be the largest (20,000), most modern, most comfortable hockey palace in the world. Surely this is proof of management interest in the team and its fans.
The only trouble with New York hockey, to this fan, would seem to be too many fair-weather supporters like Mr. Leggett.
New York City
I have been going to hockey games for 15 years and I can't imagine any fans in any sport rooting more avidly for their team than do the Ranger diehards. Although Mr. Leggett's knock on the Ranger front office is certainly warranted, his knock on the Ranger fans is most certainly not.