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  November 4, 2000



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Hitmen are new breed of hero


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

 It's time to say another good-bye, this time to Yokozuna, who recently died of a heart attack.

 Yoko was a much better athlete than people realize, especially for a guy that size. I'd be laying there on the mat looking up at this humongous leg crashing down at my face ... and he never hurt me.

 We both had a sense of honour about winning and losing titles. I lost to him and he lost to me. With Yoko dies another piece of what little is left of the time-honoured traditions of the wrestling era that I loved.

 People have been asking me what I've been doing since I've been home.

 Well, the other day, I thought it was really cool to take my 10-year-old son, Blade, to his hockey game. I really got into watching these little kids skate their hearts out for an hour -- the parents were oooohing and aaahhhhing.

 The kids are all sweaty and jacked up in the locker room, the parents are psyched and I'm thinking, 'I am so glad to be part of this.'

 One thing I've always noticed is that the entire hockey community is a cut above. There's great decency, from the dedicated parents who drive their kids to practice, to the locker rooms at all levels where there is still team spirit, the devoted coaches, trainers and front office, the passionate loyalty of the fans.

 What has struck me time and again is that you'll find some of the nicest people at a hockey game.

 Look at the Hitmen this year. Here's a team that's trying to fill some pretty big skates -- and succeeding -- just to live up to their own reputation. And in the stands I see the same diehard fans who jumped on board at the beginning, when hardly anyone thought the team had a chance and they're still riveted to every play, ooohing and aaahing, -- me, too ! -- just like at my son's game.

 Then I go downstairs to the locker room and the old magic is splashed all over the place. They'd trounced their opponents in the last two games to the point where I kidded them about how it reminded me of Stu working over some guy in the basement, meticulous, methodical and relentless. Everyone was brimming with pride and exhilaration again.

 Dean Clark was off to do an interview, two media guys were setting up to interview Kris Beech, Pavel Brendl had a satisfied smirk on his face, over my shoulder I caught a glimpse of someone signing a stick and Matt Kinch asked me how I'm dealing with my retirement.

 In the maze, I saw the always-smiling face of trainer Chris Fleming and thought about how many people it takes to make this machine go.

 When I think of this young man I think how great it was to be around him, a class act all the time. His smile was like his own private joke that he shared with the world, that he was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing and was loving it.

 Let there be some small comfort in knowing that his last actions and thoughts were of the very thing that meant so much to him.

 On the heels of my retirement from wrestling, I take deep pride in knowing that the integrity and the never-give-up attitude that my Hitman character stood for is exemplified in every young man that wears a Hitmen hockey jersey.

 Calgary's new breed of hero.

 I am proud to be a part of this close-knit family of hockey people who keep the flame alive. We lost one of our finest sons and my deepest sympathies go out to the team and to the Fleming family.

 He will be missed.

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