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  May 12, 1999

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Hitman remains Calgary's No. 1 fan

The Hitman and model Trisha Campbell unmasked their allegiance during Calgary's series against Kamloops last week. -- Darren Makowichuk, Calgary Sun
 The Calgary Hitmen are bringing their own Hitman to the Memorial Cup.
  WCW wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart, who has thrown his formidable weight behind the team named after him, plans to jet into Ottawa Tuesday to support the Calgary juniors and take part in the festivities.
  Hart, 41, one of the original owners of the Hitmen, along with NHLers Theoren Fleury and Joe Sakic before they were sold to the Calgary Flames two years ago, had planned to attend all week, but has Hollywood commitments.
  "It looks like I'm going to be on Jay Leno Monday night," The Hitman told the Sun from his Calgary home last night. "If I could get to Los Angeles (after the Hitmen) play Sunday, then I might be there Saturday, but it's looking like Tuesday. I don't get a chance to go on Leno every day and it looks like if I'm going to be on there, I'm going to make some kind of announcement on what I'm going to do with my future. I'd really rather not miss any of it.
  "I love that team. I don't own it anymore but I wanted to stay involved and they've been glad to have me. I'm to the Hitmen what Donald Duck is to the Mighty Ducks. I don't know if I'm the mascot, but I stand behind them all the way. I love it."
  Hart, 41, who earned his fame on the World Wrestling Federation circuit before jumping to the WCW, never played hockey and fell in love with the game as a kid growing up in a community located outside Calgary.
  With 12 children in his family, Hart's parents couldn't afford to put him in hockey. Instead, he learned the sport of wrestling from his father, Stu, in the school of hard knocks in the family basement called The Dungeon.
  His first exposure to junior hockey came while travelling the pro wrestling circuit with Stu through such Western Canada outposts as Regina, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Cranbrook, before Hart hit the big time.
  "I never played, but I always thought I could have been a pretty good hockey player," said Hart. "If I was going to play hockey, I would have had to walk seven miles into the city and I did it a couple of times, but I was freezing.
  "I don't know, it always seemed I just travelled the same circuit as the hockey players when I was with the Stampede Wrestling. We'd go see the local junior hockey team and to me, it was just a great time.
  "My love for the game really took off in 1992. I dropped a puck at centre ice at a Regina Pats game and the place was just packed. That's where Fleury and Sakic wanted me involved, because they saw the tie-in with kids.
  "I know we go to Boston, New York and those types of places, but you can give me a junior hockey rink in Canada anytime."
  The Hitmen were a natural step for Hart.
  He was more than happy to get involved with the 18 other owners when the team was formed four years ago. Calgary fell on hard times two years ago and a decision was made to turn it over to the Flames.
  "I never wanted to sell. I really didn't. I was quite happy with my little piece of the team," said Hart. "But it became tough for us. People didn't think it was viable and when you have 17 guys who want to sell, it's difficult."
  But Hart has remained a devoted season ticket holder. He doesn't sit in a private box at the Saddledome, he cheers from the stands with his four children -- Jade, Dallas, Alexandra and Blade.
  This might surprise you, but he doesn't like the fights.
  "I kind of like the finesse players more," admits The Hitman. "I like more what Wayne Gretzky brought to the game in the way of skills than what Eric Lindros brings with his rough and tumble style. I love a guy like (Calgary's) Pavel Brendl.
  "The guy has such great skills. I don't know what it is, but I feel kind of weird when I watch a hockey fight. It's the only sport where players actually are allowed to pound each other until one falls. In baseball, it always turns into a melee.
  "But don't get me wrong, I don't like it too dippy either."
  So, Bret what's your prediction for the Hitmen?
  "I want to shake the hands of the team that's able to beat them because I don't think anybody is going to stop them. They're such a great team and I just don't see beating them as being possible," said Hart.
  "This is so great for this team. They've been through so much. When they were first named after me, there was a lot of controversy and people were telling me two years ago they wouldn't survive. I want to be there because I really believe they're going to win."
  It's hard to beat the Hitmen's cheerleader.

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