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SPORTS TODAY

Bourque makes it official: That's all folks!

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque announced his retirement Tuesday, 17 days after hoisting the Stanley Cup with tears streaming down his face.

"It took a long time, but the timing was perfect," he said. "For me, this is a pretty neat finish. It means I retire as a champion."

An emotional Bourque dabbed at his eyes and choked back tears several times at a news conference.

"Many of you have asked why I am retiring at a time when I am still playing pretty well," Bourque said. "By far the most important factor is my desire to be around my children."

Bourque, 40, played for 21 seasons in Boston. Despite his long career in Boston, Bourque said, "I am a Colorado Avalanche, and I am retiring as one. So it is only right that I have returned to Denver to make this announcement."

General manager Harry Sinden confirmed the Bruins will retire Bourque's number at a night in his honor next season. Colorado also announced that it will retire 77, the first number retired by the franchise since it moved to Colorado.

Elsewhere in the NHL:

Jaromir Jagr, anxious to learn his new address, is disappointed the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't trade him during last weekend's NHL draft.

Jagr sees no future with the Penguins, the only team he has played for during his 11 NHL seasons. "At this stage, we have passed the point of no return," Jagr said. "I don't care where I play my game. I only hope I will be able to play it for at least 10 more years and win at least two more Stanley Cups."

Bob Essensa, who became a surprise starter in goal for the Vancouver Canucks last season, was released.

Defending champion withdraws from GHO

Notah Begay III, the defending champion of the Canon Greater Hartford Open, withdrew from the tournament, citing continued problems with his back.

Begay hurt his back during the offseason in December. He has played in just nine events since.

Begay was replaced in the tournament, which starts Thursday, by Joey Sindelar.

Colombia golfer tops at Junior Masters

Santiago Caicedo of Cali, Colombia fired a 1-under-par 70 to lead a field of 81 after the first round at the 49th International Junior Masters Golf Tournament At East Aurora Country Club.

Local players Jay Lindell (Lakewood), Dave Patronik (Orchard Park) and Matt Thomas (Blasdell) were three shots back.

The tournament consists of 36 holes of medal play to determine match play brackets. The low 32 players qualify for the championship bracket. The finals and semifinals are Friday.

Results on Page D 5.

Entries to be uncoupled for Belmont, Breeders' Cup

The state's Racing and Wagering Board is moving to end entries being coupled as common betting interests in the biggest New York races, including the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders' Cup.

The board has proposed rules uncoupling all entries with common ownership in races with purses of $1 million or more at all of its tracks.

Joe Lynch, the Racing and Wagering Board's chief of racing operations, said the board was acting on a request from the New York Racing Association. The association operates New York thoroughbred tracks at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga.

Coupling entries is designed to protect unsuspecting bettors from the manipulation of betting pools with commonly owned horses being ridden to the benefit of one or the other horse against the rest of the field. That could be a particular danger in lower-purse races.

"The coupling is for the protection of the public in the cheaper races," Lynch said.

But the Racing and Wagering Board said all the horses entered in the premier races like the Belmont are carefully scrutinized by bettors. Lynch said that coupling entries -- especially in big races with small fields -- reduces the possibilities of making the exotic bets that now account for three-quarters of wagering in such events. The public has 45 days to comment on the uncoupling rule.

In other news, the Breeders' Cup races have a new name and a new sponsor. The eight races, worth a total of $13 million, will be known as the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships when they are contested Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

Saints rule out staying in Superdome

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, saying he was shocked over allegations he was not negotiating in good faith, said state officials made "Mickey Mouse" offers to the team.

"Today, the state has really pushed it in our face," Benson said Tuesday night. "They really slammed the door on us."

Benson reacted angrily to a news conference held by Steve Perry, Gov. Mike Foster's chief of staff. Perry said the Saints had broken off negotiations and Benson probably would move the team to Mississippi or sell it.

Although the state wants to revamp the Superdome and keep the Saints in it, Benson said it will never be acceptable to him.

The building is not only showing its age, Benson said, but the upper deck seats, some almost 300 feet from the field, are a liability.

"This is the reason that the Saints' economic performance is last in the National Football League," Benson said.

Lesley Visser joins Monday night NFL radio

Lesley Visser is headed back to Monday Night Football, this time in the radio booth, following a path taken by Boomer Esiason.

Visser will join Esiason and Howard David occasionally for Monday NFL broadcasts this season, Westwood One/CBS Radio Sports said. She was jettisoned by ABC-TV's "Monday Night Football" before last season, as was Esiason, who was hired by Westwood One last July.

In other sports broadcast news:

Irving Fryar joined CNN as an analyst for its studio show "NFL Preview," and Mark May moved to ESPN as an analyst for college games and studio shows.

Agreeing to a request by affiliates, NBC will broadcast next year's Salt Lake City Games on tape delay on the West Coast.

Report: No graduation, no tournaments

Colleges with low athlete graduation rates should be banned from postseason play, a commission said in chiding universities for an emphasis on winning.

Player uniforms also would be stripped of corporate logos and a new coalition would be created to promote tougher academic standards under the plan by the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

"We're not in the entertainment business, nor are we a minor league for professional sports," said the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of Notre Dame and commission co-chairman.

About 42 percent of men's basketball players and 48 percent of football players graduate from the major universities, according to the latest NCAA statistics. The rate is lower for the 114 largest basketball programs, 34 percent.

"Your school is not worthy to be the champion of the country if you're not educating your kids," Hesburgh said.

The commission wants ban colleges that don't graduate at least half the students who play in each sport from conference championships and other postseason games.

Around and about

A charge of aggravated assault lodged against Buffalo Bills linebacker Corey Moore has been dismissed in Haywood County(Tenn.) General Sessions Court.

Maurice Cheeks, a 76ers assistant coach the last seven seasons, reportedly had a second interview with Portland Trail Blazers president and general manager Bob Whitsitt concerning the team's head-coaching job.

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