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Colin Campbell Gets Fired as Coach of the Rangers

<i> From Staff and Wire Reports</i>

With the New York Rangers’ high-paid but underachieving team scheduled to resume play next week after the Olympics, the club fired Colin Campbell as coach Wednesday, less than a year after he took them to the Stanley Cup semifinals.

General Manager Neil Smith said a successor will be announced within about the next 48 hours. He said he was “99%" sure who it would be, adding, “I’m just trying to finalize conversations with the person.”

The leading candidates were reported to be John Muckler, the former Edmonton Oiler and Buffalo Sabre coach, and E.J. McGuire, coach of the Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford, Conn.

The Rangers are 17-24-16 and six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite a payroll of $44 million, highest in NHL history. The team also is the oldest in the league and lacks both speed and size.

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A trial in the dispute over control of the Columbus, Ohio, NHL expansion team has been scheduled for April 20 in Columbus.

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In addition, a judge in Manhattan last week agreed to hear part of the dispute and set a March 3 hearing to discuss scheduling.

In that lawsuit, Columbus Hockey accused the NHL of breach of contract and fraud and Nationwide Insurance Co. of contract interference.

Tennis

Steffi Graf made a successful singles comeback in Hanover, Germany, showing no signs of the knee injury that threatened to end her career.

In her first singles match in 8 1/2 months, Graf defeated German compatriot Andrea Glass, 6-4, 6-2, in the second round of the $450,000 Faber Grand Prix.

Jim Courier, seventh seeded and playing his first match in six weeks after arms problems, was eliminated, 6-2, 6-3, in 57 minutes by qualifier Brian MacPhie in the Kroger St. Jude tournament in Memphis.

Petr Korda, playing his first tournament since winning the Australian Open Feb. 1, defeated Spain’s Albert Portas, 7-5, 6-2, and moved into the quarterfinals of $1-million European Community Championship.

Pro Football

The San Diego Chargers signed former Pittsburgh Steeler left tackle John Jackson to a six-year contract reportedly worth $26 million. The Chargers also have extended offers to Chicago Bear quarterback Erik Kramer and Jacksonville Jaguar running back Natrone Means, who spent three years in San Diego, and signed quarterback Troy Kopp who played at Mission Viejo High, Pacific and in the Arena Football League.

The NFL Players Assn., citing comments made by Washington Coach Norv Turner, has accused the Redskins of retaining defensive lineman Sean Gilbert’s rights for the sole purpose of trading him. The NFLPA said that violates the league’s labor agreement and will ask that Gilbert be declared a free agent. Gilbert sat out the 1997 season, upset that the Redskins kept him from becoming a free agent by designating him their franchise player.

The Carolina Panthers lured cornerback Doug Evans from the Green Bay Packers with a five-year, $22.5-million contract. . . . The Indianapolis Colts signed free-agent cornerback Jeff Burris to a $20-million, five-year contract. . . . The New York Giants gave linebacker Jessie Armstead a new five-year contract believed to be worth about $15 million.

The Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed nose tackle Joel Steed to a four-year, $17-million deal. . . . Defensive end Jeff Lageman re-signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. . . . Defensive tackle Dan Owens signed with the Detroit Lions. . . . Oakland Raider Coach Jon Gruden hired Chuck Bresnahan as defensive back coach, Frank Gansz Jr. as special team coach and Mike Waufle as defensive line coach.

Golf

John Daly and Phil Mickelson have committed to play in the Nissan Open at Valencia Country Club, Feb. 26-March 1, joining a field that includes defending champion Nick Faldo, Craig Stadler and Duffy Waldorf. A tournament spokesman said he expects to announce commitments by Tiger Woods and Fred Couples later this week.

Miscellany

Football great Doak Walker, who suffered a spinal injury while skiing Jan. 30, was moved from critical care to a multi-trauma unit at Columbia-Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo. Doctors say it may take months to determine how much movement Walker will have in his arms and legs. . . . Grady Lewis, who developed the low-cut canvas basketball sneaker, has been nominated for election to the basketball Hall of Fame, along with Arnie Risen, a slick and quick center during the NBA’s early days. . . . Admission to the UCLA-Stanford baseball game at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Jackie Robinson Stadium will be free with the donation of a children’s book each day. The books are being donated to the Los Angeles Public Library. . . . Packer running back Travis Jervey faces a March 10 court date after his arrest in South Carolina on charges of speeding and possession of marijuana. . . . The Chinese Swimming Assn. will tighten enforcement of anti-doping rules and make swimmers legally responsible for any violations, the sport’s governing body said in Beijing.


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