I must question one critic (19TH HOLE, Jan. 11) of your selection of Bobby Orr as the Sportsman of the Year. Martin J. Aronoff's contemporary cry of racism in hockey seems to have arisen from a blatant lack of knowledge of the nature of the game. The main prerequisite for any NHL hopeful is the ability to skate. Since very few black athletes play hockey or have the skating ability that is necessary, very few play in the pros. However, I would like to point out that the Boston Bruins' roster was integrated before that of the Boston Red Sox (i.e., Willie O'Ree was skating around in the Boston Garden before Pumpsie Green took his first at bat at Fenway Park).
I am not surprised that the criticisms came from residents of New York City, home of the also-ran Rangers. Cry on, gentlemen, but don't expect the Stanley Cup to catch your tears; it is and will be ours (or Orr's) for some time to come.
ROBERT N. SHERRIFF
First of all, 95% or more of all hockey players come from Canada, which has a small black population, so where would the NHL get a larger number of black players?
As for the alleged anti-Semitic remarks directed toward one Jewish player, what about the names the French players call the players of English descent? I'm not defending such remarks, but in any game the object is to rile the opposition.
Hockey deserves recognition and Bobby Orr deserves it most of all.
Please explain to Floyd Dimond, who wrote in reference to Orr's "bad manners," that the Sportsman award is given to a man, as in human being, not as in god or saint. If he wants to give an award to a saint, fine, but he's going to have one heck of a time finding one!
Colorado Springs, Colo.
A Sportsman isn't picked on how he drives out of a parking lot or on whether he's black or Jewish. It depends on his play, his attitude toward the game and its players, and on a number of other things. I don't think SI could have made a better choice.
LANI DES ROSIERS
Fort Montgomery, N.Y.
How could Mark Mulvoy state that the New York Rangers collapsed late last season simply because Eddie Giacomin was overworked in the nets (It Takes Two to Win the Cup, Jan. 11)? There is an old saying in hockey: Get past the forwards and you have the defensemen; get past the defensemen and you have the goalie; get past the goalie and you have a red light. It became easier to score against the Rangers late last season mainly because they lost the services, through injuries, of five other key players: Jim Neilson, Brad Park, Donnie Marshall, Arnie Brown and Vic Hadfield.
A well-balanced, two-way team keeps the puck out of the net, not just the goalie. Of course Giacomin benefits from the rest he is getting this year, but be fair, last year was not his fault.
NORA E. GARDNER
New York City
I read the article while watching the Rangers' alternate goalie, Gilles Villemure, shut out the Minnesota North Stars 1-0. Mulvoy's analysis was up to date and truthful.
BRIAN P. KURTZ
Spring Valley, N.Y.