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  April 21, 2001



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Hitmen's Kinch a real class act


By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun
  It's going to be a shame to lose Kris Beech to Washington, Jordan Krestanovich to Colorado, Sean McAslan to Edmonton, Rod Sarich to Florida, Pavel Brendl to New York and Shaun Sutter to the Flames.

 But, for me, the guy who played the hardest all year and who will be the biggest loss to the Hitmen is defenceman Matt Kinch.

 At the team dinner Thursday night, there were a lot of memories back to the day Kinch started with the team -- the good times and the bad -- and I know everyone will agree we're going to miss Matt a lot.

 No doubt we'll be watching them all soon in the NHL.

 Right now, it's possible Beech could be lacing up his skates for the Washington Capitals, much the same way as former Kootenay Ice star Mike Comrie is now playing with the Oilers. When I watched Comrie score the winning goal in overtime in Game 4 against the Dallas Stars -- in his home town, no less -- I was struck by how the dream of every Canadian kid came true at that moment.

 What an incredible thrill for Comrie!

 In that moment, I was reminded of a young Chris Benoit. From the time he was little, Chris would come to my dad's old-style, original Stampede Wrestling shows in Edmonton with a dream in his eyes. All he wanted was to walk in the Dynamite Kid's shoes. As Dynamite was the best wrestler in the world at that time, it was no small aspiration for Chris to have.

 Eventually, Dynamite actually saw fit to give Chris his boots. "Here, kid, you wear 'em now."

 Chris has done an incredible job and remains the last of the 'real' wrestlers.

 I digress, but since I'm on the subject of great Canadian wrestlers, I want to acknowledge that, along with Benoit, Val Venis, Edge, Chris Jericho and Lance Storm are the hardest workers in the wrestling business today.

 They are the backbone and the future of wrestling and are deserving of a great deal of Canadian pride.

 Speaking of Canadian pride, I was hanging out in a restaurant that had the NHL playoffs on TV and I was surprised to see how down on Edmonton a lot of the Calgary fans are.

 In my family, we've always supported both the Flames and the Oilers, going back to when my dad played with the Eskimos in the '30s. Since Calgary is out of the playoffs, we've turned our allegiances over to Edmonton. We always cheer for Canadian teams, especially when they're from Alberta!

 My dad has always been a big Oilers fan and it didn't hurt when Wayne Gretzky and the boys invited Stu to hold the Stanley Cup, back when they first won it in 1984.

 My dad is in hospital right now. He's doing fine, is in good spirits and mostly he's anxious to get out. Upon entering his room for a visit, I found myself having to rescue the doctor from a side headlock! Shortly thereafter, my soon-to-be 87-year-old father was surrounded by young, pretty nurses and I enjoyed the smile on his face as he regaled them with stories from the '30s and '40s, as they listened patiently.

 He captured their interest when he described in colourful detail how he'd coached the Edmonton Grads girls softball team to victory over the U.S. Armed Forces team in the '40s. I imagine everyone on the floor has heard quite a few wrestling stories by now but, I promise you, he's only just getting warmed up!

 Stu was concerned he'd insult the Canadian government by having to miss the ceremony at which he will be awarded the Order of Canada medal but the great news is he'll be out of hospital in plenty of time to attend next month's presentation.

 It meant a whole lot to him to receive get-well wishes from Ralph Klein and from each and every one of you who has been kind enough to write and call.

 Stu has been watching hockey from the hospital and I look forward to catching a game with him.

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