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Pro-Wrestling & Hockey - 15 Ties You May Not Know

posted Feb 23, 2018, 7:14 PM by Wrestling Scout
The ties between pro-wrestling and certain sports 
is well-known and well documented.  There are scores of amateur wrestlers who went pro, 
Image result for bobby roode hockey stick
perhaps even more football players and there are a number of boxers, fighters and sumo who became pro-wrestlers.

Hockey, despite being a physical sport with regular fights and incredible popularity across Canada, there is not much overlap.  Even when a mailbag question came up on a recent episode of Wrestling Observer Live and Dave Meltzer could only cite a few connections.

Bobby Roode as a member of Team Canada 
complete with a Canadian flag on a hockey stick

Edge & Aaron Downey
Detroit Red Wings enforcer Aaron Downey played hockey alongside Adam Copeland in Orangeville (outside of Toronto) when the two were young.  Copeland, being so tall, was a promising defenseman, but the sport was too expensive!

Ron Fuller & Nashville Knights & Cincinnati Cyclones
Image result for ron fuller hockey
As opportunities in pro-wrestling were drying up, Ron Fuller was looking for a new venture.  In 1988, he partnered up with some gentlemen and brought ice hockey to Nashville, Tennessee.  The idea was mocked at first, but it became a success in time.  It actually set the stage for the NHL's Nashville Predators.  Fuller also invested in the Cincinnati Cyclones, although Cincinnati is yet to have an NHL team.

The Goon (Wild Bill Irwin)
Image result for bill irwin goon
In 1996, the WWF was going through a phase of bringing in established talent in strange gimmicks.  Tony Anthony became a plumber, Tracy Smothers became country boy Freddie Joe Floyd and Bill Irwin became "The Goon."  From his skate-like wrestling boots to his organ entrance music, The Goon was an unusual, but memorable WWF character.

Chris Jericho & Ted Irvine
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Ted Irvine was a left winger for several NHL teams in the 1960s and 1970s.  He is best remembered as a New York Ranger (ranked at #74 in a list of the 100 best Rangers in a 2009 publication).  His son Chris frequently participates in charity and celebrity hockey games.

Bret Hart & Calgary Hitmen
In 1994, Bret Hart became a patial owner of a major junior hockey team whose nickname was taken for his own.  Other owners included Theo Fleury, Joe Sakic and Graham James (who ended up going to prison).  The group's logo with a hockey mask wearing character was controversial and the use of pink and black was different as well, but their merchandise was very popular.  In 1997, the team was purchased by the Calgary Flames.

Bruce Hart & Tiger Williams
In 1984, Stampede booker Bruce Hart and rock promoter Bruce Allen were lighting up the pro-wrestling scene in Western Canada.  Longtime Vancouver Canuck (and most penalized NHL player of all-time) Tiger Williams was brought in as a referee and built to match involving Hart, the Honky Tonk Man and Rotten Ron Starr.  The hot angle preceded Stu Hart selling out to Vince McMahon and undermining everything.

George Kennedy
PictureA top pro-wrestler in his own day, Kennedy later opened a gym to train wrestlers and began promoting matches.  He expanded out to boxing as well.  He was looking to purchase a hockey club and in 1910, Kennedy paid $7,500 for the Montreal Canadiens.  He was both the team's general manager and head coach until his death in 1921.

Little Beaver & Marcel Dionne
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When future Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne was playing junior hockey, a teammate likened him to a famous midget wrestler and the nickname stuck.  Both were from the Greater Montreal area, but Dionne had about 40 centimeters (16 inches) on his smaller namesake.  Both men retired in the late 1980s, Beaver had just performed in front of the largest pro-wrestling crowd at that point in history and Dionne was the second all-time leader in goals, assists and points.  The man ahead of him, Gordie Howe, always called him "Beav."

Gene Okerlund & Todd Okerlund
Okerlund was a standout at the University of Minnesota and was drafted by the New York Islanders, but was plagued by knee injuries.  He did play in the 1988 Olympics before retiring.  In 1999, he and "Polish" Joe Ciupik founded ClassicWrestling, best remembered for releasing AWA footage on pay-per-view.

John Quinn & Pat Quinn
Image result for virgil kentucky butcherSometimes people have famous cousins like Sasha Banks has Snoop Dogg or Nia Jax having the Rock.  However, two Irish cousins from Hamilton made a big impact in their respective sports.  Pat Quinn played defense for nine seasons, he coached five NHL teams and took two to the Stanley Cup finals and he led Team Canada to their first Gold Medal in fifty years.  Pat's cousin John was even bigger and left his mark in the pro-wrestling world.  He worked on top in several territories, including Vancouver, Calgary and Detroit.  Most notably, he worked on top in the WWWF with Bruno Sammartino and headlined Wembley Stadium in London against Big Daddy.

Image result for buddy roseBuddy Rose vs. Portland Winter Hawks
Minnesota-born Paul Pershmann was a tremendous athlete and even when he put on weight, he loved to play up his exploits.  The legend is that in 1981, Rose went down to skate with the WHL's Winter Hawks and he out-skating 1 of their 5 fastest skaters and all of them went onto NHL careers.  The reality might not have been quite that amazing, but Rose made a good showing for a someone who had not played hockey for years and did not look the part of a great athlete.

Jean Rougeau & Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Image result for trophée jean rougeauFamous Montreal wrestler Jean "Johnny" Rougeau is perhaps even more noted for his contributions to Junior hockey in Quebec.  He coached four seasons, including coaching Mike Bossy during his time with the Laval National.  Rougeau also served as the president of the league and in the 1969-70 season the Jean Rougeau Trophy was introduced to be awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season.

Stan Stasiak
George Stipich was a big kid from Quebec who pursued hockey like many of the day.  He was considered undisciplined and hot-headed, which led him to spending plenty of time in penalty box.  The story goes that his coach told him that he'd be better off in pro-wrestling and so he pursued it instead.

Vampiro & the Montreal Canadiens
Related imageA strange person in a business of strange people, Ian Hodgkinson was an exceptional hockey player who was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League while he was in high school.  The team, the Kingston Canadians, were a Montreal affiliate, so Hodgkinson was in their system for a time.  He ended up leaving hockey behind to pursue rock-n-roll and eventually pro-wrestling in Montreal.  Some have assumed his hockey background was a fabrication, but it is just one more layer to his bizarre life story.

Kurt Von Stroheim & the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen
Image result for Kurt Von StroheimWally Nurnberg was playing for the Dutchmen (a Boston Bruins farm team) when he injured his ankle.  He was reconciling in Hamilton and began going to Al Spittles' gym, where he crossed paths with pro-wrestlers and decided to get into the sport.  His authentic German ancestry and massive frame led him to become one of the many German heels of day.  The Von Stroheims, like the Von Brauners, the Von Steigers and many others were hated villains who worked all over the United States and Canada.

Here are some other pro-wrestlers and hockey connections for your enjoyment...

Boston Bruins' legend Bobby Orr and teammate Carol Vadnais get hoisted up by Andre the Giant!
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Goldberg and New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens

Montreal Canadiens' legend Maurice Richard and Yvon Robert (left photo) and Eduardo Carpentier (right photo)
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CM Punk & Colt Cabana (right hand side) cheer on the Chicago Blackhawks
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Cactus Jack battles Jerry Sags as referee and famous Broadstreet Bully Dave Schultz (not to be confused with Dr. D) looks on.

Peter Taglianetti was amongst those who tried to bodyslam Yokozuna on the USS Intrepid.

Ric Flair and famous enforcer Bob Probert
Related imageImage result for ric flair carolina hurricanes