DETROIT, June 3 (UPI) -- The Stanley Finals begin Tuesday and those who view them as little more than a coronation of the Detroit Red Wings are dismissing the remarkable run of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Red Wings waltzed to the Presidents' Trophy with a roster that features future Hall of Famers at virtually every position and humbled the defending champion Colorado Avalanche, 7-0, in the decisive seventh game of the Western Conference finals.
The Hurricanes got to the playoffs by winning what many refer to as the Southleast Division, playing in a region where No. 88 belongs to Dale Jarrett, not Eric Lindros, and the team sports season ends with college basketbal's March Madness.
But Carolina turned out to be the bracket buster this year. After ousting the two-time defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils, the Hurricanes pushed aside hockey's most storied teams--the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I think as a team and as an organization and as a city, we want to continue to make steps in the right direction. And I think we're starting to do that the last couple of years," Hurricanes captain Ron Francis said. "Certainly, the more success we have, the more respect we'll get."
The Red Wings don't have to be convinced of the threat posed by an upstart team like Carolina. Seven years ago, Detroit was expected to toy with the Devils, but New Jersey stunned the Red Wings with a four-game sweep.
Since then, Detroit has reeled off eight straight wins in the Stanley Cup Finals. And while it's taken four years to get back to this spot, the Red Wings boast one of the most formidable arsenals since the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Agassi gets to French quarterfinals
PARIS, June 3 (UPI) -- Andre Agassi needed more than three hours in a rain-delayed match to get by French wild card Paul-Henri Mathieu, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, Monday to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open.
After getting blown out in the first two sets in just over an hour, the fourth-seeded American gained a reprieve in a 30-minute rain delay before the third set. Agassi fell behind a break, 1-2, in the third but won 10 of the next 11 games to get back into the match.
The 1999 champion took a 5-0 lead in the fourth before closing out the set in 32 minutes. But when Agassi fell behind, 1-3, in the fifth set and faced break points in the fifth game, it looked as if he would join Sunday's highly ranked losers, top seed Lleyton Hewitt and defending champion Gustavo Kuerten, on the sidelines.
However, Agassi held off his 20-year-old foe and broke serve in the eighth game, then wrapped up his seventh career quarterfinal berth at Roland Garros.
The 32-year-old American won for the fourth time in his career when trailing two sets to love. The last time he did it was in the championship match here in 1999 when he regrouped after a rain delay to defeat Andrei Medvedev and complete a career Grand Slam. Agassi won his 10th consecutive match. He captured his 52nd career title at the Tennis Masters Series event in Rome on clay three weeks ago.
Mathieu, the 2000 French Open boys' singles champion playing in only his 11th career tour-level event, showed off his brilliant shot-making ability in taking a stunning two-sets advantage over the seven-time Grand Slam winner. But he failed to capitalize on a chance to take a two-break lead in the fifth set.
Second seed Marat Safin of Russia also reached the quarterfinals with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Arnaud Di Pasquale, another French wild card.
Di Pasquale played in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for only the second time in his career. He reached the round of 16 here in 1999. Coming back from knee surgery, De Pasquale has played in only one other tour-level event this year (Casablanca) while spending most of his time playing challengers.
Safin reached his second career quarterfinal at Roland Garros. The 22-year-old, who claimed his lone major at the 2000 U.S. Open, was the runner-up this January at the Australian Open.
No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean of France and No. 11 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, both semifinalists last year, also reached the quarterfinals. Grosjean defeated Xavier Malisse, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3, for his third win over the Belgian in as many meetings and will face Safin in the next round
Ferrero had a tougher against No. 31 Gaston Gaudio of Argentina, pulling out a 6-7 (3-7), 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4 triumph. The 22-year-old Spaniard, who thought he would have to withdraw from this event last week with a leg injury, is one win away from his third straight appearance in the semifinals at Roland Garros. The last two years, he was defeated by eventual-champion Gustavo Kuerten. Ferrero will take on Agassi in the quarterfinals.
Blue Jays fire Martinez
TORONTO, June 3 (UPI) -- In a move that seemed only a matter of time, the Toronto Blue Jays Monday fired Buck Martinez, who becomes the fifth major league manager to lose his job already this season.
Martinez came down from the Blue Jays' broadcast booth to take over as manager last season, but enjoyed little success on the field. Martinez, a former catcher with the organization, led the Blue Jays to a 100-115 record, including a 20-33 mark this season.
When Toronto got off to a slow start this year, rumors surfaced quickly that Martinez had little or no job security. New General Manager J.P. Ricciardi pulled the trigger Monday morning.
Martinez joins Buddy Bell (Colorado), Phil Garner (Detroit), Tony Muser (Kansas City) and Davey Lopes (Milwaukee) as managers who have been fired this season.
Helton NL Player of Month
NEW YORK, June 3 (UPI) -- Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who hit 10 homers and drove in 28 runs, was named Monday as the National League Player of the Month for May.
In 29 games, Helton hit .347 (35-for-101) while leading the league in RBI. He had eight doubles, a triple and scored 24 runs. It is the third Player of the Month Award for Helton, who also won in May and August of 2000.
Packers waive Antonio Freeman
GREEN BAY, Wis., June 3 (UPI) -- The Green Bay Packers, hoping that Terry Glenn can rebound from a poor season, Monday made Antonio Freeman the latest victim of the NFL salary cap, waiving the veteran wide receiver.
Freeman ranks third on Green Bay's all-time list with 57 touchdown receptions, fourth with 20 100-yard receiving games, and fifth with 417 catches. He caught 52 passes for 818 yards last season.
"Antonio Freeman has been an integral part of the Green Bay Packers' success over his seven-year career with us," said Green Bay Coach Mike Sherman. "He has always been someone who game-day savvy. I thought he had a very good season for us last year, culminating in typical Antonio Freeman form by catching 13 balls in our two playoff games."
His 57 TD receptions all were thrown by Brett Favre, which is more than any other active quarterback-wide receiver combination.
The Packers signed Glenn, who fell out of favor with New England Coach Bill Belichick last season after catching 79 passes for 963 yards in 2000.
Titans re-sign Hicks; sign Graham
NASHVILLE, June 3 (UPI) -- The Tennessee Titans have agreed to contract terms with running back Skip Hicks and long snapper Aaron Graham. Both players are expected to be on the field Monday when the team begins a four-day mini-camp.
Hicks will join veterans Eddie George, Robert Holcombe, and Mike Green, along with rookies Dicenzo Miller and John Simon in Tennessee's loaded backfield. He had 56 carries for 341 yards and one touchdown last year, and also caught five passes for 22 yards. The four-year veteran from UCLA rushed for a career-high 142 yards, including a career-best 51-yard run, leading the Titans to a 26-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Nashville in December. He previously had a pair of 64-yard rushing games at Minnesota and Oakland last season.
After being tabbed by the Washington Redskins in the 1998 draft, Hicks has gone on to rush for 1,109 yards and 13 touchdowns on 285 attempts. He also has 22 receptions for 160 yards. He posted a career-high 433 rushing yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in Washington after an illustrious collegiate career.
Graham, a former Nebraska center, adds more depth on Tennessee's offensive line. Graham has long-snapping skills, a duty he is expected to take over on field goals and punts for the Titans. He played last season with the Oakland Raiders after spending his first four years with the Arizona Cardinals.
Marcus to return to Western Kentucky
BOWLING GREEN, Ky., June 3 (UPI) -- Western Kentucky center Chris Marcus has decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft because of a left foot injury that prevented him from participating in any pre-draft workouts.
The 7-1, 285-pounder had been projected to be selected anywhere from fifth to 15th in the draft by the league's Undergraduate Advisory Committee, but opted to return for his fourth season of college eligibility to allow additional time for his foot to heal.
"I am physically unable to perform up to my capabilities right now," Marcus said. "So, I will be back at Western next year and take time to completely rehab my foot and prepare myself for the 2002-03 season, and for my future in professional basketball."
Marcus missed two months with a stress fracture in his left foot last season and will need to undergo surgery this summer to further stabilize the bone. By returning to school, he will have five-plus months to recover before the 2002-03 season begins in November.
Limited to 15 games last season because of the injury, Marcus averaged 15.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest as the Hilltoppers went 28-4 and won both the Sun Belt regular season and tournament titles for the second year in a row. However, he was noticeably bothered by the foot when he was outplayed by Stanford 7-footer Curtis Borchardt in a first-round NCAA Tournament game.
He joins Ohio forward Brandon Hunter and Purdue guard Willie Deane in withdrawing from the draft. Underclassmen who have not signed with agents, or seniors eligible for a fifth year of like Marcus have until June 19 to withdraw from the June 26 draft.
Purdue's Deane withdraws from NBA draft
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., June 3 (UPI) -- Willie Deane announced Monday that he has decided to withdraw his name from consideration for the NBA Draft later this month.
Deane, who led the Big Ten in scoring in overall games last season, did not hire an agent and this remains eligible for his senior campaign next winter. Apparently, his not being invited to this week's pre-draft camp in Chicago helped make his decision easier.
Also, according to a report in the Journal and Courier in Lafayette Ind., the NCAA was going to make him forfeit one game for each day he attended the camp, which was being overseen by NBA coaches and scouts. The camp runs through Friday, which would have meant being ineligible for the first four games next winter.
Deane, a 6-1 guard from Schenectady, N.Y., averaged 17.3 points per contest last season.