Having spent part of my childhood in a town in Minnesota called Babbitt (90 miles north of Duluth), I have a right to call myself a hockey fan. When I lived up there from 1964 to 1968, the high school hockey team played outdoors, whether it was 20 below or not. We considered 15 degree weather balmy and would play outdoor hockey in sweat shirts. I have fond memories of the invigorating cold and the thrill of learning to skate and to play hockey, like every other kid around town. Even in the summertime, we'd take our hockey sticks and a rubber ball, and one of us would stand in front of the garage door with a stick and a baseball glove and play goalie. Hockey was a year-round religion up there.

Now, however, I am reluctant to call myself a hockey fan. A sport that's more in my blood than any other is being tainted by NHL goons and enforcers. The viciousness of the violence is not amusing.

In fact, I'm contemplating boycotting the sport until something is done. We could learn from the Soviets and Eastern Europeans on this matter. At least on the ice, they play by more civilized rules and have a greater appreciation for the finer points of the game than we do.

I'll never forget the thrill of playing hockey outdoors in the crisp northern Minnesota air with the blinding sun shining on the snow all around and the ice nearly blue it was so cold. I haven't found anything quite so exhilarating. I hope future generations of Minnesota kids have the opportunity and the desire to play the sport without fear of serious injury.

JONATHAN C. ROWE Washington