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  November 25, 2000



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Proud to be Canadian

Music, sports part of the riches of the Great White North



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

 I've been an American for so long that it feels great to be Canadian again.

 What I mean is, for 17 years, I was in the U.S. and all over the rest of the world an average of 280 days per year and I was totally surrounded by American TV, radio and newspapers.

 There was little coverage of things happening in Canada and none on the CFL and WHL.

 Even the NHL was sparsely mentioned until more recently.

 Sometimes it was hard for me to keep up with what was going on in my own country.

 Now that I'm home, people have been asking me how I feel about my retirement and there are a lot of mixed emotions.

 A lot of people tell me they're glad for me to be out of it and others say they'll miss seeing me on TV.

 I'm reminded of something that wrestling veteran Bob Orton once told me way back when: "Kid, wrestle for as long as you can because when the time comes that you stop, you will miss it every single day for the rest of your life."

 With the grand exit that I've had, I didn't find that I was missing it -- yet.

 Then again, I've only been officially retired for less than a month.

 It's been 10 months since I had to leave the ring due to multiple concussions and, for the first time, I've been adjusting to life without wrestling.

 I didn't miss it -- until I heard Theo Fleury getting booed at the 'Dome a week ago when the Rangers came to town.

 Theo is a close friend and I felt bad for him until my friend Chuck, who was at the game with me, reminded me that the louder they boo Theo, the more that means they appreciate him.

 It reminded me of when I was a bad guy in wrestling, and when I mentioned it to Theo after the game, he replied: "Yeah, ya know, you're right."

 The next time I was at the 'Dome, there was a lot of cheering going on -- for The Tragically Hip.

 I've been a fan of theirs since the beginning but, believe it or not, I'd never been able to see them before.

 Every single time they were in town, I was out of town.

 In fact, here's a story for you.

 When the Calgary Hitmen logo was first designed, the Flames' then-president Bill Hay felt it was too violent and said: "That jersey will never be worn in the Saddledome."

 The first person to ever wear a Hitmen jersey in the 'Dome wasn't one of the players.

 It was the drummer for The Tragically Hip, who wore it during their concert as a personal favour to me and I've never forgotten it.

 Seeing The Hip on Thursday was well worth the wait.

 It was a moving, uniquely- Canadian experience.

 Our flag was waving everywhere and I heard songs from years ago that I hadn't heard for years because they hardly play The Tragically Hip on the radio outside of Canada.

 It's like The Tragically Hip is Canada's best-kept secret.

 Anyway, I laughed when I realized that the way Gord Downie dances around on stage reminds me of the way I dance around when I'm home alone with the music turned way up.

 I find myself really getting into being a Canadian again.

 Do I miss wrestling?

 Not when it's such a great time to be home.

 When I was a kid, the only football league was the CFL.

 We hardly knew anything about the NFL.

 Then came cable.

 I can't wait to go to the game tomorrow.

 Teams from two of the biggest cities in the country competing for the oldest football trophy in the world right here in my own hometown.

 They say even the weather will be perfect (keep your fingers crossed!).

 Some people think that football was created in Canada, not in the U.S.

 All I know is that the CFL is a Canadian thing.

 I hope that on Sunday, every family will sit down and watch the game live on TV across the entire country.

 It doesn't matter if you like football or not.

 It's about tradition, and with The Guess Who performing at halftime, a Canadian band for a Canadian game -- now that's radically Canadian.

 It's great to be home -- eh?

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