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Sunday, November 4, 2001

Ding-dong dandy

By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling

 (Due to technical difficulties, Bret Hart's column did not appear in yesterday's paper. Here it is in its entirety. Bret's column will return on its usual day next Saturday.)

 I was reading something about Ed Whalen that got me to thinking. I thought I was possibly the busiest retired guy in the world -- but I might have to give up that dubious distinction to Ed.

 The last time I saw Ed was when we and Dave Bronconnier cut the ribbon on a new playground for the Love of Children Society a few months ago.

 By the way, congratulations, Mayor Dave!

 I try to do my share of charity work but Ed Whalen is a dynamo that is hard for anyone to keep up with.

 It seems these days Ed lives to improve the lives of others.

 I miss hearing Ed all the time as the voice of the Flames. And when it came to Stampede Wrestling, we gave it the Hart but Ed was the soul. He's the most believable wrestling announcer I've ever seen, the perfect, easy-going, down-to-earth blend for every wrestling fan from all walks of life.

 Yeah, ol' Ed would get carried away sometimes and blurt out what became his trademark lines, like 'malfunction at the junction' and `no doubt the Cuban Assassin is still losing sleep over hair by mix master.' But when things heated up so much that even Ed couldn't craft the words, he did the next best thing -- he busted big ole' Abdullah the Butcher in the head with the mic, requiring the monster to get 22 stitches. Ed liked it real.

 A year or so ago, I bumped into Ed during a commercial shoot at the Victoria Pavilion and before you know it, we ended up sitting in the bleachers reminiscing about the good ol' days when Stampede Wrestling had the little building rockin' big time. Ed told me the favourite snapshot moment that runs through his mind is when he clocked ol' Abdullah.

 For me, my personal favourite Ed moment is more like a sound byte.

 Back in '78, I'd only been in the business for a few months when I locked up with Dynamite Kid. I was grateful I got to work with him and learn from him.

 I'll never forget Whalen's voice coming from the TV when they aired the match that Saturday afternoon, excitedly saying, "I kid you not. I have just witnessed the best wrestling match I have ever seen!" For a young, unsure guy of 20, that one statement did a lot to raise my self-confidence.

 Ed is the kind of guy that means what he says and says what he means. His compliments were not given lightly and his praise rang in my head and heart for a long, long time. As I became more successful and eventually found myself psyching up for world championship matches that millions of people would be watching live on pay-per-view, I'd tell myself to go out there and be good enough that Ed Whalen would say it was the best wrestling match he'd ever seen.

 Ed would be surprised to know that, I think.

 He's a humble guy with a heart of gold.

 A man of great integrity, voice of reason, a vibrant sense of humour and deep compassion, Ed Whalen has been a true and loyal friend to my family through triumph and tragedy. When Owen was killed both Ed and his wife, Nomi, were deeply supportive and I will always be grateful for their genuine caring and concern.

 I am very proud that Ed Whalen is my true friend; a proud Calgarian and a great Canadian.

 Why the sudden tribute?

 Why not?



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