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Richard, semicomatose, fights for life

Hockey great Maurice "Rocket" Richard is semicomatose and fighting for his life, with the cancer in his abdomen spreading, agent Jean Roy said Saturday.

"Things seem to have dramatically worsened in a short time," Roy told the French service of Broadcast News. "His health has deteriorated and the cancer has spread."

Roy said the 78-year-old former Canadiens star is battling for his life at Hotel-Dieu hospital.

"We have determined that the cancer has spread throughout his body and that he's in a semicomatose state," Roy said. "They're giving him medication to ease his pain.

"He recognized me and was able to make signals, but he can't express himself very much. Only providence will determine his fate." Roy told LCN, an all-news TV station: "It's general cancer and it's only a question of time."

Hospital spokesman Gerard Cellier refused to comment.

In addition to cancer, the Hall of Famer also is battling Parkinson's disease and might have Alzheimer's.

Richard was to have been released Friday to spend the Victoria Day weekend at home, but doctors opted to keep him in the hospital.

He first was diagnosed with a tumor in his abdomen more than two years ago, but the cancer went into remission and he was able to resume the public appearances he makes as a "special ambassador" for the Canadiens.

In 1944-45, Richard became the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a season, which he accomplished in only 50 games.

The NHL inaugurated the Rocket Richard Trophy last season for the player who scores the most goals in a season.

AVALANCHE: Defenseman Adam Foote, eager to get back into action after injury, practiced but awaited medical clearance to resume playing. Foote's right eye is bloodshot and the skin around his eye is discolored.

STARS: Coach Ken Hitchcock appears poised to shuffle his line combinations for Game 4 today against the Avalanche. Center Mike Keane skated with Joe Nieuwendyk and Jere Lehtinen during a light practice; Mike Modano, Brett Hull and Scott Thornton formed the other top scoring line.

MEMORIAL CUP: The Barrie Colts lost 5-2 to the Halifax Moosehead in the first game of the tournament. Lightning junior prospect Sheldon Keefe did not score for Barrie.

RANGERS: Glen Sather, freed of contractual obligations to the Oilers by Edmonton's chairman, acknowledged he is interested in New York's openings for a president and general manager.

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