NHL

Tuesday's Sports in Brief

LONDON (AP) SOCCER

The degenerative damage potentially caused by repeated blows to the head in soccer has been highlighted by a rare study of brains of a small number of retired players who developed dementia.

Fourteen former players were part of the research that began around 40 years ago and six brains, which underwent post-mortem examinations, had signs of Alzheimer's disease.

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Four brains were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) pathology, a possible consequence of repeated impacts to the brain, including heading the ball. A previous study of 268 brains from the general population in Britain found a far lower CTE detection rate of 12 percent.

The small sample size of former footballers prevented researchers from University College London and Britain's National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery from drawing any conclusions about the dangers posed by playing soccer as they released their research.

PRO BASKETBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - Charles Oakley is allowed back in Madison Square Garden, though the former New York Knicks star says he wants an apology before he would return.

MSG chairman James Dolan banned Oakley last week, two days after the former power forward had an altercation with security guards while attending a game and was arrested.

But the sides reconciled, helped by a meeting Monday at NBA headquarters with Commissioner Adam Silver, with Hall of Famer Michael Jordan participating in by phone. Jordan and Oakley were teammates in Chicago before Oakley was traded to New York, where he became a fan favorite with the Knicks from 1988-98.

Dolan then decided Oakley is welcome back at the arena, a person briefed on the discussions told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were to remain private. ESPN.com first reported the decision.

BASEBALL

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) - Winter is over - in baseball, at least.

Fifteen major league teams had their first scheduled workouts for pitchers and catchers in Florida and Arizona, including the Justin Verlander-led Tigers, the American League champion Indians and a Boston franchise heading into its first season after David Ortiz's retirement.

Verlander arrives with high hopes after re-emerging as a Cy Young Award contender last season, but Detroit has a lot of ground to make up after Cleveland won the AL Central by eight games. Ortiz led Boston to an AL East title in his final season, and although the Red Sox are without Big Papi for the first time since 2002, they added star left-hander Chris Sale to a talented team that already included Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts.

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) - Kansas City Royals left-hander Brian Flynn is expected to be sidelined for eight weeks after falling through a barn roof at his Oklahoma residence.

The Royals said Flynn broke a rib and had three minor vertebrae fractures.

Flynn, who went to Wichita State, had a 2.60 ERA in one start and 35 relief appearances last season, allowing 38 hits in 55 2/3 innings. In 12 relief appearances from July 31-Sept. 6, Flynn did not allow an earned run.

HOCKEY

In the midst of losing their grip on first place, the Montreal Canadiens abruptly fired coach Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien in hopes of getting their season back on track.

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin made the announcement two days into his team's bye week. Julien was fired as coach of the Boston Bruins last week and predictions that the veteran wouldn't be out of work for long proved true.

At 1-5-1, the Canadiens are the NHL's worst team since the start of February, including a 4-0 loss to the Bruins. They next play Saturday against Winnipeg.

Therrien, 53, was in his fifth season of his second tour of duty as Canadiens coach and had three playoff appearances with a trip to the 2014 Eastern Conference final. They missed the playoffs last season after goaltender Carey Price injured his knee in November.

Owner Geoff Molson tweeted Tuesday afternoon: ''Michel Therrien, merci beaucoup pour tout, thank you for giving everything you had to our team.''

TENNIS

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A tennis commentator dropped by ESPN for a remark about Venus Williams during the Australian Open has sued the sports network for wrongful termination.

Former tennis pro Doug Adler maintains he was describing Williams' aggressive style last month as ''guerrilla'' tactics and not comparing her with a ''gorilla.''

He apologized for his poor word choice but was let go from ESPN mid-tournament.

Adler claims ''emotional distress'' in the filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging he was wrongly branded a racist and has lost other TV opportunities because of the controversy.

The lawsuit calls for punitive financial damages, but doesn't name an amount.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Auburn University is once again replacing its landmark oak trees at Toomer's Corner.

A university statement says workers will plant new trees on Saturday because of damage caused by a fire in September.

The current trees were planted there after a University of Alabama fan poisoned the original Toomer's oaks.

Toomer's Corner is a traditional gathering for Auburn fans to celebrate football victories by rolling the trees with toilet paper. A German man pleaded guilty last month to setting fire to paper on one of the trees after a game.

The new trees will be slightly smaller than the original replacements. University horticulturist Gary Keever says smaller trees generally fare better than older ones when they're being transplanted.

Fans won't be allowed to roll the new trees until they're older.