Bret's history with the Calgary Hitmen
People often ask me just how I became involved with junior hockey. Years ago when I worked the Stampede Wrestling circuit there were often junior games being played next door and I loved watching the Pats, The Blades and even the Tigers or Hurricanes whenever I had the chance. My whole life I secretly wished I might have been a hockey player but in my family wrestling boots were easier to come by than hockey skates.
Back in ‘93 I was asked to drop the puck at a Pats game in Regina to raise money for the Lupus Foundation and in what was a delightful surprise the Pats drew their biggest crowd of the season. Unbeknownst to me Theo Fleury and Joe Sakic, along with a small group of wannabe owners, saw this as a positive sign and sought me out to join them in finally bringing junior hockey back to Calgary. I was as flattered as I was keenly interested, especially when Theo Fleury suggested naming the team after me!
I always felt there was a close parallel between my early Stampede Wrestling days and junior hockey, much the same as the NHL and WWF. Right from the very first Hitmen game I ever went to I was impressed by the heart and gritty determination of these young players. The Hitmen had a moderately successful inaugural season, with the only set back being that the team logo was deemed too violent by some do-gooders in the media so it was changed to something so wimpy that the result was a merchandising disaster!
Thanks to the shrewdness of Lorne Johnson the Hitmen managed to acquire some damn fine players and for the first few seasons we stayed focused and competitive despite major obstacles and built a dedicated and solid fan base. The dream of junior hockey coming back to life in Calgary, where it was strongly believed that junior hockey couldn’t survive in an NHL city, came true when superb young players like Brad Moran, Chris Nielsen and Brent Dodginghorse refused to be turned back and we won the western canadian championship and a shot at the Memorial cup in May, 1999. Since then I’ve taken in many a Hitmen game and I believe junior hockey is still the best sports entertainment in the city and across the entire country.
When I take my usual seat at the Saddledome it’s impossible not to recognize many of the Hitmen fans who never gave up and loyally supported this team right from the start. I’m happy to say there are many people in this city who love this team even more than I do - and that’s saying something. I see it in so many happy faces after the games, win or lose. If I had my way, they’d be making bobbleheads of all the diehards that I see at every game. I’m sure there are so many of you who remember those cold snowy Saturdays with the sky already growing dark as the Stampede Wrestling theme played with the credits rolling - and that intense, eager two hour wait until Hockey Night In Canada came on! I just want to take this opportunity to thank the Hitmen players, team management and Wendy’s for honoring me with a bobblehead and letting me realize a dream.