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  March 3, 2001



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Theo's courage commendable


By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun
 I was at the same time sorry and relieved to hear that Theo Fleury checked himself into rehab.

 With Theo being a public figure, I can appreciate how tough a decision it must have been and I commend his courage.

 You have to appreciate the pressures on a young kid from a little prairie town who made it to the NHL.

 In a lot of ways, New York is colder than Oxbow, Sask.

 Take it from me, coming from a prairie town myself, the bright lights of New York can be blinding.

 Through Theo Fleury, I got involved in hockey. It was Theo who approached and encouraged me to become one of the founding owners when they were putting together a WHL team. And it was Theo who suggested naming the team The Hitmen. Through our association, we became, and have remained, close friends.

 The last time I saw him was the first time he took on the Flames in a Ranger jersey. After the game, he was his usual quiet, laid-back self. You could tell he was glad to be back in Calgary. He never wanted to go.

 They said Theo was too small to make it, but at 5-ft. 6-in., he plays like a giant -- even with personal demons. He'll be back.

 Like Fleury, they said Doug Flutie was too small but the Heisman Trophy winner and standout CFL player climbed his way to the top of the NFL.

 Originally playing backup, Flutie finally got his shot and pulled game after game out of the fire, carrying the Bills for two seasons -- only to be replaced by the original starter who doesn't have anywhere near the experience that Doug has.

 Where's the appreciation? Politics. Buffalo's loss will be another team's gain.

 I met Flutie at the NHL Hall of Fame awards shortly after Owen died.

 He told me how close he is to his brother and that he doesn't know how he could deal with that kind of loss. He said to call on him any time and offered me his friendship and support. A class act.

 Doug told me with great conviction, "I love Canadian football!"

 That was evident from the impassioned way he recalled how the Stamps lost an infamous Western Final to Edmonton when the heater broke and everyone's hands froze.

 He still shakes his head about it. What I'm thinking is, wouldn't it be great to have Flutie back in the CFL? In my dreams.

 And then there's Bryan Berard.

 I happened to be in Toronto when the season ended and Tie Domi introduced me to Bryan.

 There he was, blind in one eye and with the conviction of a Terry Fox he swore he'd play in the NHL again.

 I loved how he never stopped believing in himself I can only imagine his heartbreak when it came time to accepting that he can't see well enough to play in the NHL.

 There's a lot to be said for facing the truth and stepping down with class and dignity.

 All three of these guys are role models to me and to my kids.

 I think it has something to do with dedication, always doing the best you can and acknowledging that even when one rises to the top, there are new challenges that redefine our limits.

 Sometimes the biggest battles are personal.

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