Any relative or close friend of mine can tell you that ice hockey is closely contested by pro wrestling as my sports entertainment darling. When I looked into some of the connections between the two worlds, though – Wow! I was really amazed by some of the discoveries that I made. Here I will dive into just a few intersections between these two brutal modern gladiator cultures.
Pictured above are WWE Hall of Famer (and one of my all-time favorite Superstars) Adam Copeland, better known as Edge, and Aaron Downey, an enforcer who had an NHL career that spanned over a decade. Edge is a native of the Orangeville neighborhood of Toronto and played minor hockey with Downey many, many years ago. Two goons in a pod, you might say. In an interview with Canadiens Magazine, Edge reflected on his time and his memories of playing the sport:
Our boy Aaron Downey says he played minor hockey with you. Do you remember him?
Edge: Oh yeah, he’s got these big old mitts, that’s why he has a good punch. He’s a good guy; he grew up in Shelburne and I grew up in Orangeville, and those are neighboring towns. We ended up meeting up here and there throughout both of our travels, and I remember I was in the States watching ESPN and there he was taking out some dude with one punch. I think it was their “Highlight of the Night” (chuckles).
What kind of player were you?
Edge: Big. I was there strictly to hit and to make sure nobody got over the blue line.
Was there a lot of referee interference during your games?
Edge: (laughs) Not so much, no. That came later in my career.
When did you know things weren’t going to work out for you as a future NHL’er?
Edge: It was the cost of the game. It was just too much… I came from a single-parent household, and my mom and I couldn’t afford it. I could afford soccer, you know? All I needed was a pair of shoes. But each year, I was growing and growing and growing and growing, and we couldn’t afford the new equipment and couldn’t afford the cost to join the league. I know that with my cousins playing now, that’s still the case, especially with all my cousins being goalies and growing out of their pads every year. I already knew by that point, too, that I wanted to be a wrestler, anyway.
You were converted at Wrestlemania VI?
Edge: Oh no, way before that. I was 14 of 15 by then, and it must have been six or seven years prior that I realized I wanted to get into it.
Read the full interview here, it’s pretty entertaining stuff: http://web.archive.org/web/20061024073510/http://www.canadiens.com/eng/magazine/thelastword.html
Edge’s longtime partner in crime and real-life best friend, Christian (with whom Edge won the WWE World Tag Team Championship 7 times), also was a goalie as a kid and has talked several times about growing up as a die hard Leafs fan.
There have been other crossovers (haha skating term) throughout the years, such as Bobby Orr making a few public appearances with the late, great Andre the Giant, Bret “The Hitman” Hart being part-owner of the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Gene Okerlund’s son Todd being drafted by the Islanders, and legendary Red Wings and Blackhawks goon (may he rest in peace) Bob Probert making this special guest appearance in WCW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYX-tGn1tMA But there’s one particular overlap that I like the most.
Yes, that’s right – Chris Jericho is the son of New York Rangers legend, Ted Irvine. Irvine was very much a tough guy in his career and his son’s career path (as well as his sidejob as the frontman of heavy metal band Fozzy) definitely reflects that. This direct link was very, very special in my opinion, as it showed two different sides of Canadian culture – One of the time gone by that still holds up now, and one that has emerged in the fairly recent past and looks to be something special for many years to come. Indeed, Canada has proved to be a true breeding ground for wrestling talent over the years, providing us with the legendary Hart family, E&C, the infamous Chris Benoit, and many, many more, and it seems that it’s a sign of perhaps not a shift in the cultural dynamic of the Dominion, but an added element to it. I can’t complain – Both of them are giving me something to watch with religious dedication. You go, Canada. You go.