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  June 17, 2000



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Hero's return

Montreal opens heart to Hart



By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun

 I've been very fortunate to have a team of six great doctors treating me ever since I sustained multiple concussions last December and January.

 Concussions are a tricky business. There are so many different degrees of them that sometimes it's hard to get a prognosis. Right now, we know I can't possibly wrestle before the end of the year. But after that? Not knowing if I can ever wrestle again has left me hanging in a lot of ways. My main doctor in Calgary sent me to see a world famous concussion specialist, in Montreal, so they can compare notes and hopefully see more than six months into my future.

 In days when wrestling promoters don't take injuries seriously enough, it's nice to see doctors still do. Dr J, in Montreal, got me appointments with four other specialists there and they arranged for me to take four tests last Tuesday and Wednesday.

 On the plane to Montreal, I thought about how the last time I'd been there I'd left with quite a sour taste in my mouth after getting double-crossed by the WWF. What happened in Montreal changed me and it changed wrestling. I hadn't been back since.

 It's not that I was avoiding Montreal, it's just that WCW rarely goes there. I'm not about to let one rotten incident hang like a black cloud over my whole career or over the city and people of Montreal. But the irony of going back to the same place where my fate would be determined for a second time felt like more than coincidence.

 At one hospital, I sat in a patient waiting area, with a bunch of senior citizens. They were all dressed but I'd been asked by lab technicians to remove my clothes. So there I was in one of those lovely little paper hospital gowns with the slit up the front -- and it was way too small on me to close, my underwear, and those cozy blue booties over my calf high socks. I was thinking about how ridiculous I looked when a young man who was so weak he could barely walk around came up to me with eyes that were at the same time weary and excited and told me I'm his hero. Well, I didn't think I looked very much like a hero at that moment but he went on to say how he's a huge fan of the Hart family, especially myself, Owen and Davey, too. He said he goes to the matches all the time and it makes him feel proud to be in the crowd with lots of Canadian flags waving whenever I come out to the ring. He wanted to know why I haven't been in the ring and when I explained about my concussion I was moved by how concerned he was.

 He asked me how I feel and he said the tests aren't so bad and then he turned to leave because in this crowded waiting room there was nowhere for the weak young man to sit and he didn't have it in him to stand much longer. On his way out he said almost in passing, "I have cancer and it don't look good."

 I called after him and he turned. I promised him I'd be back to see him tomorrow. I thought of my own kids and was grateful.

 Later on my driver, who I'd just met that morning, told me that he knew the young man and his family. That Antoine's brother had seen me come into the hospital and ran to get Antoine and they'd searched all over the hospital for me. He also told me that Antoine was very sick. He'd had operations to remove tumors before and they told him he'd be OK. But now he had three tumours -- in his brain.

 While I was enduring an all too familiar headache from hell, I thought of Antoine and what he goes through every day and he was my hero. I couldn't wait to get out of there and go and see him. Now it was me looking for him in the hospital and when I walked into his room neither he or his mom could believe I was there. We talked for hours. Antoine sure did love to talk about wrestling the way wrestling used to be. He even told me about a girl he likes and we compared dating strategies. He was talking about stuff that any 18-year-old would until he calmly said, "I'm ready to die."

 I gave Antoine a much more fitting autographed photo than his scruffy scrap of paper and told him I'd see him again in September, when I go back to see the doctors there.

 The people of Montreal -- especially Antoine -- showed me that what happened to me was as important to them as it is to me.

 The problem isn't that I take wrestling too seriously. The problem is the guys in charge of wrestling these days don't take the influence and importance of wrestling heroes seriously enough. I hope the tests results will say I can come back to wrestling and work hard at being a hero to anyone who needs one.

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