Bret Hart needs no introduction. He was nice enough to take time out of his day to answer some questions. This interview dates back to August of 2000.
1) Russ: Since you grew up in Calgary did you have aspirations of becoming an NHL player?
Bret: Sort of, In a fantasy kind of way. There were no skating rinks around my neighborhood where I grew up. Therefore I didn’t skate well enough. I think I dreamed more about Hockey than wrestling.
2) Russ: Who was your favorite player and team?
Bret: The New York Rangers were my favorite team. Vic Hadfield was my favorite player. I also like Brad Park and Ed Giacomin. I also like Bobby Orr, and when the Rangers would fall out of the race I would root for the Bruins as my secondary team. Glen Sather was also one of my favorite players though I don’t remember seeing him play. I think it was because I had his Hockey card and liked the picture.
3) Russ: What was it like doing a TV commercial with Wayne Gretzky?
Bret: It was a lot of fun. When the people in charge of the commercial were looking for a wrestler, Wayne suggested me. I was very surprised to hear that the commercial people thought that I was too big of a star. They were looking for a lesser-known wrestler. Wayne and his business manager Mike insisted that I be allowed. At first I was just making scale, but Wayne got them to pay me a nice rate. Wayne’s stunt double was the guy that I threw around for three to four hours. When I was filming with Wayne I pretended to flip him and they said, “cut”. Kind of like the Flintstones. It took Wayne about four seconds with one take to film this.
4) Russ: Who came up with the idea of naming the hockey team the Calgary Hitmen?
Bret: Believe it or not it wasn’t me. Theo Fleury came up with it and asked me and I said that I didn’t mind. There was an outbreak of criticism about the logo and the name, the Flames thought it was too violent. GM Graham James wanted me to change the name. I made sure we kept the name because I felt like my reputation was on the line.
5) Russ: The Hitmen are the reigning champions of the WHL, we you able to go to any of the championship games?
Bret: I went to almost all of them. I missed the final game. It’s just as well the loss might have broken my heart too much. We should have won. Maybe the Hitmen were too overconfident. The Ottawa 67’s got unbelievable goaltending. I guess it was just one of those things. It was like they had our number all year.
6) Russ: Do you think the Hitmen will win the Memorial Cup this year?
Bret: Of course I’ll say yeah. It will be a tough year. I don’t think it will be like last year. We lost Brad Moran this year and I hope he gets to the NHL. He deserves it. I don’t know. Kootenay has a good team now. I think we have as good a chance as anybody. It won’t be a cakewalk. We won’t know for a few months.
7) Russ: Have you taught any of the players some of your wrestling moves to use on the ice?
Bret: Heh, no not really. But I have talked to a lot of the players after the game. I’m like a cartoon character to this team. I’m kind of like what Donald Duck was to the Mighty Ducks. When I was an owner I held up the selling of the team to Calgary. I didn’t want to lose the relationship with the team. I didn’t mind selling, and I didn’t want to hold up the deal, but I still wanted to be a part of the team. I’m pretty good friends with some of the players off the ice even now. I see them at the airport sometimes. I have them over for parties at my house. Hockey is special, especially junior hockey. Junior hockey players are humble and polite. They are very respectful and that includes the coaches etc. They are more classy and wholesome than lets say wrestling.
8) Russ: Since you recently suffered a concussion (are you feeling better) what are your feelings about Eric Lindros ‘s situation? Do you think he should retire?
Bret: I’m feeling a lot better. My concussion was very similar to Eric’s. I don’t know that’s a tough decision. When I heard he was playing and saw him skate I was surprised. I knew that I was in no shape at all. I was supposed to see Eric’s doctor, doctor Kelly. When he played that first game my doctor cancelled the appointment and sent me to somebody else. That doctor may have hurt his reputation. I couldn’t even do a summersault. I think it may have been too soon.
9) Russ: Do you think the NHL is too violent?
Bret: A little bit, I do. The hit that McSorley put on Brashear in Vancouver was wrong. McSorley got off lucky. I hear that McSorley is a good guy but there is no place for that in hockey. They need to control fighting. Hockey is a skilled sport and fighting should never be a deciding factor in a game. It shouldn’t be the deciding factor in watching a game either.
10) Russ: Do you think the NHL should intervene to try and save some of the troubled Canadian teams?
Bret: I don’t know I’d love to see if they could figure out a way. I think it’s important that Canada not lose hockey all together. I’m not sure of a solution.
Bret was one of the nicest people that I have ever spoken too. He was full of stories so I didn’t want to leave this one out. Bret was surprised and pleased that his television commercial was being played in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Bret said that he was in Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant one night after winning the title. Wayne was in the audience rooting for Bret earlier in the evening. Bret was there with his daughter and Wayne was signing autographs. Bret noticed that Wayne was sitting and talking to his daughter while he was talking to some other people. Bret noticed that Wayne had signed an autograph on a napkin for her. Bret’s daughter then told him that Wayne had signed 35 autographs. When Bret asked his daughter why 35 autographs? His daughter told him that she had gotten an autograph for every kid in the neighborhood. Brett then said, “Wayne is one of my real heroes.” What else can I say but thanks Bret!