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  December 30, 2000



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Mario still has edge


By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun

 "I've come back from a lot worse than sitting at home doing nothing ...

 "I just have to be patient getting my game back to where it was three years ago, maybe better. I have a lot of confidence I can do that."

 I don't know about you, but I thought it was a pretty amazing thing when Mario Lemieux skated out to centre ice the other night. What guts. It just doesn't happen that a 31-year-old athlete retires and then comes back four years later. And what was even more amazing is the way he played -- well, like Mario Lemieux!

 What a moment!

 First he was ousted for 50 games by a back injury ... and he came back.

 Then it was the Hodgkins -- and he still came back. The guy could be sitting in the owner's suite throwing back cool ones but instead, he's on the ice getting sweaty. Obviously, he's still got things he wants to prove -- to himself .

 He's still got the passion for it.

 I understand it on a very personal level. As soon as I saw Lemieux come out onto the ice, a twinge hit me. I wondered what it would be like if I could somehow come back to wrestling. Lemieux so inspired me that, just for a minute, it made me want to lace up my boots again. But when I saw the faces of the hockey fans -- the respect and admiration -- I realized why, even if I could come back (I can't) there'd be no point to it.

 I still have a passion for a particular style of wrestling that most fans no longer have an appreciation for. A passion that burns unfulfilled and there's nothing I can do about it.

 It means a lot to me that Mario is able to pick up where he left off. Even more, I'm happy for his son, Austin, who now has the chance to understand his father's legacy first hand. It made me grateful that at least my kids were able to see me wrestle before I had to hang it up, in an era when wrestling was more family oriented. I recalled fondly how, at various times, I gave each of my kids a pair of Hitman glasses.I didn't just hand them out at home but made a point of surprising them in front of the whole arena, presenting the glasses to them like I did with fans around the world. I hoped that my kids could be my fans too, even if dad isn't always perfect and doesn't run around the house in a superhero costume. It does my heart good to think of Austin Lemieux cheering on his dad.

 I'm impressed with Mario Lemieux's tenacity. Again, I understand where it grows from. Mario isn't coming back to be almost as good as he was before -- he wants to be not just the best, but his best. He won't be satisfied with anything less. The toughest opponent he faces is his own reputation.

 I've read where Mario is saying how the game is faster and the players are bigger and he wants to get his legs in shape to play with these guys.

 Hey, you can teach an old dog new tricks -- but something tells me ol' Mario still has a few tricks up his sleeve ...

 The day after: "My back was a little sore this morning, but that's a feeling I got when I came back before. It's just a matter of playing more and getting used to the bump and grind ... I'm a little sore, but I should be all right."

 I envy him.

 Who would have thought that Mario Lemieux would be on the ice in 2001.

 Happy New Year, everybody!

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