May 22, 2004
Flames come first for me
By BRET HART - SLAM! Wrestling
I was flattered when Tony Spolitini invited me to speak at the annual Italian Sportsman's Dinner and was very much looking forward to it. What I didn't figure on was the Flames' amazing playoff run -- and I never dreamed I would end up with four great seats to all the playoff games.
I promised my sons we'd go to all the games together.
When I explained to Tony I couldn't let my sons down and needed to pull out of the dinner at the last minute, he was nothing but the class act he always is, fully understanding this one time I had to put my kids first.
Needless to say, I apologize to Tony and whoever missed me. I owe Tony a favour and look forward to making good on my promise next year.
It's been almost two years since Jarome Iginla dropped by to see me after I suffered my stroke.
Their support meant more to me than Jarome and the Flames probably realize.
Jarome gave me a Flames jersey on which he wrote: Our team is thinking of you.
Since then, I've been blessed with a pretty darn good recovery and I've been wearing the jersey Jarome gave me to each and every playoff game.
I even wear it while I'm watching the games on TV. And now it's me who's thinking of the whole team. I can't lay claim to being any kind of a hockey expert but here's my take on where the Flames are going to go from here.
The entire team is working and pulling together.
There's so much I can say about how well Jarome has been playing but, beyond that, there's a confidence and a true sense of leadership that clearly is lighting the way for the rest of the team.
Defensively, I've felt Robyn Regehr and the boys have done a superb job of keeping their composure.
I've been especially impressed with Andrew Ference's calm precision in and around his own end.
The entire defence has made life considerably easier for netminder Miikka Kiprusoff, who never ceases to amaze me.
It's a darn shame longtime Flames defenceman Denis Gauthier missed most of the playoffs with a knee injury. His presence is sorely missed -- no doubt he would have rung a few bells by this time.
I have this vision in my head of Dave Lowry skating around the Saddledome hoisting the Stanley Cup much the same as Lanny McDonald did in 1989.
Dave's bone-crunching hits must be trying to make up for Gauthier being on the sidelines.
When you talk about leadership, it's hard not to recognize the standout job Stephane Yelle has done all year, especially through the playoffs.
Clearly, the genius behind coach Darryl Sutter's late-season additions of Ville Nieminen, Chris Simon and Marcus Nilson have helped making this Stanley Cup run a reality. Shean Donovan, Chris Clark, Oleg Saprykin and, of course, Martin Gelinas are all playing with an intensity I believe is unstoppable.
As one of the biggest Flames fans, I just want to congratulate Darryl and CEO-president Ken King for a super effort all season long.
The Sea of Red is only going to get bigger. I boldly predict we're not only going to win but also fervent Flames fans will be the deciding factor in bringing the Stanley Cup back to Calgary.
Order The Mouth of the South: The Jimmy Hart Story