ESPN2, trying to energize television ratings, hopes to educate a generation of new hockey fans.

During a Jan. 9 game between Colorado and Chicago, the Walt Disney Co.-owned cable television channel will experiment by allowing viewers to ask questions via an Internet site and get definitions of hockey strategies, rules and penalties. The experimental concept will be known as "NHL Rules!"

NHL ratings are down 10 percent on ESPN and 21 percent on ESPN2 this season, the first of a five-year, $600 million contract to show games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.

"This is an attempt to help people who don't understand the game and have difficulty watching it on television," said Bill Clement, an ESPN hockey analyst who will take part in the telecast.

Clement, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers, will team with former goalie Darren Pang in the booth, and host Steve Levy will take questions from viewers communicating through the Web site.


Sampson: IBL Coach

Former Virginia and NBA star Ralph Sampson was appointed head coach of the Richmond Rhythm in the International Basketball League.

Sampson, who has been general manager, executive vice president and interim coach of the team, made the announcement. He said he will remain as general manager but will give up day-to-day operation of the franchise.


Golota in Accident

Heavyweight Andrew Golota was bruised and shaken in a highway car crash yesterday in which his passenger was killed.

Golota, 31, was driving a car that veered into the path of a semitrailer truck in Davenport, Iowa.

Tadeusz Godlewski, 49, of Roselle, Ill., was pronounced dead at Genesis Hospital. The trailer's driver was not injured, police said.

Golota was ticketed for failing to control his car. He returned to Chicago yesterday to be with his wife and children.


Carruth's Mother

Rae Carruth's mother wants her son to understand that she had his well-being in mind when she turned him in.

Her son is charged with murder in the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend.

Theodry Carruth said yesterday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that she hasn't yet told her son she was the one who told authorities where to find him, but added: "I know he'll understand." . . . Colts DE Shawn King has been suspended for at least one year for unexplained violations of the league's drug and alcohol policy. Indianapolis also cut S Tito Wooten, who along with King would have been eligible to return this weekend after serving four-week suspensions for breaking team rules on a road trip to Philadelphia.


Umps' Hearing Moved

The National Labor Relations Board rescheduled the hearing on the contested umpires' union election from Wednesday to Jan. 4. Daniel Silverman, the NLRB's New York regional director, postponed the hearing at the request of Richie Phillips's Major League Umpires Association.

The umpires' labor contract expires Dec. 31, and the fight over who represents umpires has delayed the start of bargaining for a new agreement. Owners might decide later this week whether to lock out the umpires the following day. . . .

Major league baseball owners unanimously approved the $815 million, six-year television contract with ESPN that the sport agreed to earlier this month. The contract was agreed to Dec. 5 as part of a settlement of ESPN's lawsuit over baseball's termination of its television contract with the cable network.

Auto Racing

France Jr. Has Cancer

Bill France Jr., the president of NASCAR since 1972, told his employees he has cancer.

France, 66, is seeking further medical opinion. His family has requested privacy in the matter and will not say what kind of cancer he has, NASCAR spokesman Tim Sullivan said.


Tiger King

Tiger Woods ended the year atop the world golf rankings for a 19th straight week after amassing a record annual points total. Woods earned 750 ranking points this year, 342 more than his nearest rival, fellow American David Duval.


WTA Prizes Increase

Total prize money on the 2000 WTA Tour will increase by more than $3 million, to more than $47 million for 62 events.

Prize money at the Tour's Tier I events will rise $80,000, from $1 million in 1999 to $1,080,000 in 2000. Tier II will increase prize money by $35,000, to $635,000.