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  September 23, 2000



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Hard to knock ol' Ralph


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

Only a few days ago, I was still in England hanging out with cantankerous locals at rowdy pubs and cheering on Manchester United on TV.

I enjoyed colourful off-the-cuff remarks about the political situation surrounding the petrol strike over there and, when I came home, I wished I'd written a few down.

I landed from England on the same day I was to attend the second annual Ralph Klein Rolling Thunder Roast to help the homeless. Roast?

Anyone who knows me well knows I generally leave things until the last minute. I'd never roasted anyone before and I started to realize that roasting good ol' Ralph wasn't going to be easy. I had not one bad thing to say about Ralph, even in jest.

My frantic frenzy of phone calls to friends and relatives in search of some quip or story revealed not a single one ... and only how loved Ralph is in Calgary.

Even the one time I'd bumped into Ralph didn't give me roasting material. It was during the old Hart Foundation days when Jim The Anvil Neidhart and I stumbled across Ralph on Electric Avenue. And, as best as I can recall, Ralph was the only one intact after that night out.

Well, I decided to see if my dad might have some story. Perhaps he'd gotten Ralph down in the basement one time?

What many people don't know is that Ralph's dad, Phil, was a referee and wrestler and maybe there was a story there. Wrong! My dad recalled (in incredible detail) his days with Phil -- that his hands were as big as telephones and he had forearms like Popeye.

He recalled that Phil was a rootin' tootin' bona fide tough guy.

Three hours later with Stu, I'd heard a lot of great stories but none about Ralph. Well, I dug deep into my bag of dirty tricks and tried to egg my dad on saying, 'Well, ah, you know Dad, Ralph said you've got hands as big as toilet seats. Said it right there in the Alberta Report!'

Stu's hearing isn't what it used to be and he simply, straight faced, said, "I never touched Ralph Klein's toilet seat!"

I could see this wasn't going anywhere, but as local comic-TV personality Jebb Fink might recall, I'd wandered dangerously close to the dungeon and before I could yell, "Mom!" I found myself on the mat, with my dad's gleeful, gruff voice in my right ear saying "I don't know if I ever showed you this one!"

After a couple of hours of turning every shade of purple and screaming for my life, I managed to crawl out of there and down to the Telus Convention Centre, where I was soon called upon to roast. Much to my chagrin, everyone enjoyed the whole tale. I learned two things: Charity work has its price and good luck finding anyone who has a whole lot bad to say about our beloved Ralph Klein.

- - -

I'm all revved up for the long-awaited Hitmen home season-opener tonight.

Like a rock band wondering if they can top their last hit or even me gearing up to best my last pay-per-view match, the biggest challenge for the Hitmen this year will be to live up to their own stellar reputation. With all the great new stars joining the mainstays, the 2000-01 Hitmen have got what it takes to make the legend shine even brighter.

It will be a real challenge without Brad Moran and Chris Nielsen and there's a lot of uncertainty with Kris Beech, Pavel Brendl, Matt Kinch and Matt Pettinger still trying out in various NHL camps.

It won't be easy. That's why it's great having coach Dean Clark at the helm -- cool and confident. The team still carries tremendous talent with high hopes resting on the steady shoulders of our great young goalie, Brent Krahn.

A lot of the younger guys have filled out and Wade Davis, Robin Gomez, Mike Bubnick and Brandon Segal have all gotten hungrier and plan on forgetting their manners, starting tonight at the 'Dome.

My reports tell me that Jordan Krestanovich and Shaun Norrie are looking as sharp as ever.

With a blend of new rookies this will be a tough road but with the strongest fan base for any junior team in Canada, I'm sure we can go a long way.

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