Hallelujah! Just when it was beginning to look as though SI viewed hockey as a game played by Wayne Gretzky and a cast of extras, you redeemed your collective selves with a terrific profile of the man we Islander fans know and love as Battlin' Billy. Billy Smith has been the backbone of the Islanders, possessing the ability to rally them by his actions and to single-handedly keep them in many a game when the defensive corps has taken a mental vacation.
Granted, Smitty isn't exactly a textbook goalie, but to term him a "goon" isn't fair, either. He does what he feels is necessary to do a job the best way he can and, in the process, has become the best at what he does. Smitty is the greatest thing on ice since...since...beer.
MARK G. PRESTON
I always thought that Billy Smith was just an ordinary goon. Then I read E.M. Swift's article and discovered that Smith even slashes his teammates in practice. Oh, nice guy. I realize now that I was wrong—Smith is an equal-opportunity goon—and a disgrace to the game of hockey. I think his toughness might be feigned, however. After all, anyone who drinks his beer on the rocks, as Smith appears to be doing in your opening picture, can't be too tough.
JON J. BOECKENSTEDT
Tell Billy Smith, whom you pictured reclining in a bathtub, to go soak his head! A hockey player who deliberately slashes and butt-ends people has no business being in the NHL—or in SI!
It's difficult for me to see any redeeming virtues in the article about Billy Smith, your disclaimer in SCORECARD of the same issue notwithstanding. The urge of youngsters to imitate a winning NHL goalie and his goonlike tactics, which you discussed in detail, perpetuates the violence that SI abhors.
ROBERT L. BARKER JR.
St. Albans, Vt.
Glenn Resch says Billy Smith can be blamed only to a point for his on-ice brutish-ness and points the accusing finger elsewhere. I disagree. Being an amoral jerk is a matter of individual responsibility.
FRANK P. MILANO
You can count me among those who are fed up with the remarks of the critics concerning the NHL playoff system (SCORECARD, May 3). John Kieran's 1930 column proves one thing: For at least 52 years the NHL has had a consistent, clear-cut and straightforward system for determining who its champion is. Regular-season games are the means by which teams are positioned in the championship playoffs.
I agree wholeheartedly that the NHL's playoff system may not be right for football, basketball or baseball, but the NHL has enough problems without being criticized for creating a playoff system that, at least for hockey fans, provides an interesting regular season and a dynamite finale.
DAVID C. BEEBE
It seems to me that lots of people go to games simply to view the athletes, enjoy the competition and discuss with friends what they would have done if they were coach. The game is the focus. I seldom think about how a particular game relates to the playoffs, which are simply an adjunct to the season.
ROSS C.C. SURPHLIS
It's a sad comment on the state of contemporary sports that SI's coverage of this year's Boston Marathon was limited almost exclusively to discussing the controversies over prize money and commercial sponsorship of the race (SCORECARD, May 3). Almost overlooked was the magnificent duel between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley, who matched each other, virtually stride for stride, over the whole 26-mile, 385-yard course and provided a thrilling finish.