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  May 9, 1999



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Hitmen lead by example
By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun
  GO HITMEN!

 I want to share with you, part of a letter I got from wrestling fans Stacy and Ken Leatich, of Edmonton. In the way that the mind draws pictures that make sense out of seemingly disjointed pieces of a puzzle, answering their letter about the reasons why I quit WCW led me to thinking of the reasons I love WHL.

 "... we were shocked to see you quit and walk away from a sport you have so loved and have instilled a passion for in so many. We have always had faith in and respect for your wrestling ability and although we've never had the pleasure to meet you, we sense a genuineness in your character and from your documentary are impressed with a man of such rare integrity. We hope it's not too personal a question but would you help us to understand how you are able to walk away from wrestling, something in your blood, in your soul. How do you walk away from something you love? How do you not care any more?"

 Thank you for the kind words. I will try to live up to them. At least for me, you walk away from something you love if you know in your heart that you are doing it for it's own good. It's not that I don't care about wrestling. In fact, I've been accused, by some, of caring too much. I couldn't stand to constantly be there, seeing what they've done to wrestling.

 By staying, I felt like I was endorsing it's degradation. I hoped that my quitting would be a wake-up call. No, the question isn't too personal. In fact, I have a few hundred letters asking that same thing, how could you, of all people, abandon wrestling and your fans? Let me clear that up.

 I quit WCW, I didn't quit wrestling. And I haven't retired -- yet. I just stepped back from wrestling, so I can decide what I want to do and so that wrestling can decide what it wants to do.

 Which direction I go has a lot to do with which direction wrestling goes, what message they send to kids. I'm watching closely. So far, I'm not impressed. Are you? I am, however, impressed with the example set by the WHL. Let me tell you a story.

 The other day, Pavel Brendl, one of the Calgary Hitmen's great young stars, disputed a ref's call. All of the 5,000 or so fans in attendance disagreed with him, and when the usually respectful Brendl made a hand gesture that expressed his dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms, this star player was given a misconduct penalty and ended up having to sit out a whole game -- right in the middle of the final round of the playoffs.

 In contrast, there are wrestling matches where parents buy their kids giant souvenir lewd hand gestures to wave around and stick in people's faces. I don't know why that's acceptable to some people, but it's not acceptable to me. As sorry as I was to see Brendl sidelined, I was encouraged by the WHL's message.

 The rationalization from some of the bigshots behind the scenes in wrestling today is that obscene gestures, overt sexuality, and graphic violence is what people want and so they're simply supplying the demand.

 Well, as a retort, I submit the current popularity of the WHL and the ardent support of its fans. Fans who still enjoy bringing the kids and grandparents to the game and where the moral code hasn't slipped.

 Well, Brendl felt absolutely awful, disappointed in himself for letting the team down. But if there's one thing about the Calgary Hitmen, it's that they've learned to thrive on being the underdog. They're toughest when the chips are down and so it's only fitting that the grinders won one for Brendl, who had contributed in such a big way to so many wins for the team.

 And now, having trounced Kamloops 5-2, despite a noteworthy effort by the Blazers, and on their way to the Memorial Cup, you could see the pride beaming on the faces of these young superstars.

 I've written a lot lately, about how we need more positive role models for young people. The Calgary Hitmen, through their tenacity and courage, have earned the distinction of being heroes harnessing the unbridled spirit of youth, a power they will only fully comprehend when they're as old as those of us who are most inspired by their example.

 A lot of people lost faith in the Calgary Hitmen, but I never did. I booked my flight to the Memorial Cup a long time ago. I knew they'd get there and I won't be at all surprised if they go all the way. For me, the only surprise will be in finding out how a team whose trademark is beating all odds, plays when they're on top of the world.

 Speaking from personal experience, once you've made the long climb to the top, your motivation is in knowing that the higher you are the longer the fall. GO HITMEN!

 Happy birthday to my biggest hero, my dad, Stu. What is it about an 84-year-old man that sends strong, young wrestlers into hiding at the mere thought of scrapping it out, with him, in the dungeon ... but, at the same time, they slink back because they don't want to miss out on learning from a legend.

 Somehow, Stu mastered that secret hold that stays the spark of youth. Fanned by the wisdom of so much experience it glows ever brighter.

 Heroes young and old are guided by the same light.

 Pass the torch, let it shine, so the rest of us can bask in the glow of your achievements and light the way to realizing dreams of our own.

 E-mail The Hitman at HITMANclub@aol.com

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