Hitman mourns his brother Owen
By RICK BELL -- Calgary Sun
Bret Hart felt something was not right and he didn't like it.
He hoped it would be nothing more than a feeling. He even tried to shake it off. But the feeling would not go away.
Something bad was about to happen.
Bret was in Ottawa this holiday weekend, cheering on the Calgary Hitmen in junior hockey's Memorial Cup final. When the Hitmen suffered defeat in overtime, so close to victory, Bret's spirits took a tumble.
"I was crushed with the team losing and then, when I saw the heartbreak in all those players, it was pretty tough," says Bret.
"After the game, a player's mom told me: 'Don't worry about it, it's only a game. At least, no one was killed.' "
No one was killed. Bret thought about these words as he boarded a flight, heading for the bright lights of L.A. and a guest spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
"I thought first of my dad Stu and second, I thought of my brother Owen."
Owen, near the end of his wrestling contract, was on the WWF card in Kansas City being lowered into the ring on a guide wire, part of the hyper-hoopla of what is now pro wrestling.
Owen did not make it into the ring.
Something went wrong and he fell five storeys, his head smashing into a turnbuckle. Just like that.
Something bad had happened.
One of the pilots on the flight to Tinseltown got the news and made his way to the passengers. One passenger in particular. Bret Hart.
"The pilot handed me a note. It said there was an emergency and I should call home."
On the flight, high above America, Bret searched for a phone. He had problems getting a working line. He ended up on a phone sitting next to a guy he didn't know who could overhear everything.
It was then Bret found out.
"Up in the air, there was nowhere to go and no one to help you. It was awful," says Bret.
"I figured: No scenario is pretty, but this spectacle was the worst. Owen would have hated this and that's why it is so tragic. Owen was much more a cynic about wrestling than any of us. He was disillusioned about the way wrestling's gone.
"I see these wrestling fans as rabid dogs frothing at the mouth, looking for the next thrill. Sometimes, wrestling fans can be so cold. They did not deserve my brother's last seconds. What was Owen doing up there? That's what hurts the most."
The promoters did not stop the card when Owen plunged to a senseless death.
They lugged Owen out of the ring and the show went on.
It always does.
The crowd stayed and watched and taunted and tussled as if this was all in a day's worth of entertainment. They didn't walk out; they paid no silent tribute.
Maybe they stayed because they didn't know Owen, the baby of the Hart family, the best dad in the world, the guy who met Martha, his high school sweetheart, at a dance and now planned for their 10th wedding anniversary.
Maybe they stayed because they didn't know Martha. She was always close to Owen.
She always knew what Owen was thinking. She knew Owen would rush home once his plane landed so he could be with his children, seven-year-old Oje and three-year-old Athena.
Maybe the fans stayed because they knew little of Owen, who didn't live the high life, didn't push the ego, didn't even swear and had no spoiled-brat star persona.
Owen, who was so proud when his dad Stu said he always did the right thing. Owen, the practical joker who pulled off jokes you didn't mind. Owen, the wrestler who actually knew how to wrestle, who was always precise, who liked to be safe.
Maybe the fans never experienced the dignity of the Hart family, of dad Stu and mom Helen, who, in the midst of all this, conduct themselves with the greatest of class even as they ask: How could our son die?
Or maybe the fans will just bark for more.
"It's just such a crummy ending, it really is," says Bret, in the voice of an older brother who knows, this time, the feeling will not go away.