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‘Rocket’ Richard Is in Deep Coma

May 27, 2000

MONTREAL (AP) _ Hockey great Maurice ``Rocket″ Richard slipped into a deep coma overnight.

``It could be a couple of days, it could be a couple of hours. Nobody knows,″ hospital spokesman Charles Meunier said Saturday when asked how long Richard had to live. ``There’s a strong chance he won’t get out of this coma.″

The former Montreal Canadiens star, in hospital fighting abdominal cancer since May 10, had a significant drop in his blood pressure and had difficulty breathing overnight.

``But this morning he was a little bit better,″ Meunier said. ``So it’s impossible to say. The only one who can say is him because he’s the one fighting this.″

Most of Richard’s family went to hospital Friday night when it was feared the hockey legend would not make it through the night. But by this morning, Richard’s vital signs had improved.

The 78-year-old was admitted to hospital last week after the recurrence of a cancerous abdominal tumor that first appeared three years ago.

Chemotherapy has been mentioned as an option but only if Richard regains enough strength to endure the treatments.

On Friday, doctors found that Richard’s spinal column was deteriorating due to osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis was also causing pain in the hockey legend’s legs.

Richard became the NHL’s first 50-goal scorer in 1944-45 and went on to score a then-record 544 in his career with the Canadiens. He also scored 82 playoff goals and won eight Stanley Cups.

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