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Rocky I: Getting to know Rocky Thompson


June 8, 2017

One day after being named Chicago Wolves head coach, Rocky Thompson took a moment to talk about his big plans to celebrate on Thursday night at his home in Windsor, Ontario.

“I’m going to be sitting in front of my TV watching the Stanley Cup game and I’m going to have the AHL’s Calder Cup game on my tablet,” Thompson said. “I love this game so much. I’m a hockey junkie. I just love the game and love competition.”

Thompson, 39, led the Windsor Spitfires to the 2017 Memorial Cup title less than two weeks ago, but already he’s craving the chance to achieve more goals.

“I just want to win,” he said. “I want to be the best. When you are that way, you work harder than anybody else. Right away, I’m thinking about the Calder Cup.”

The Calgary native has a big personality to match his big dreams, so it seems fitting that a Rocky Thompson Q-and-A cannot be confined to one story. Here’s Part I of a series that will be published over the next week on ChicagoWolves.com:

Q: Rocky isn’t a nickname, it’s your given name. Seeing as how you were born in 1977, one year after the first “Rocky” movie came out, are you named for Rocky Balboa?

A: “My dad was a wrestler and a boxer and his favorite boxer was Rocky Marciano, so I was named for him. There may be a little bit to it being for Rocky Balboa, too, although he denies that.

Q: You were born in Calgary, but didn’t grow up there. Can you tell us a little about your childhood? How did you get your start as a wrestler and a boxer?

A: “We moved to Taft, an internal town in British Columbia for a few years and then moved to Whitecourt, Alberta, when I was 10. Whitecourt is a town of about 3,000 (about 100 miles northwest of Edmonton). We were surrounded by trees but not a lot of people – and it was cold. It gets down to minus-30 Celsius. It’s the official snowmobile capital of Alberta, too, which gives you an idea of how much white stuff falls there.

“Though we lived in a small town, Chris Thomas, who was an NCAA champion wrestler, moved into our town and started the Whitecourt Wrestling Club and we had a lot of champions for such a small place. I won Alberta Provincials a number of times and went to nationals in freestyle wrestling and finished fifth in 1990.

“Then I started transitioning into boxing and picked that up pretty quickly. I won Alberta Golden Gloves and Saskatchewan Golden Gloves. All the while, I was playing hockey. During my hockey career, from the age of 16 to 24 or so, I was consistently training at the local boxing club in whatever town I was playing. I would spar with professionals.”

Q: Considering you rank 10th on the American Hockey League’s all-time list with 1,919 penalty minutes, you put that boxing training to good use. Did the guys you fought know about your background?

A: “Word started to get out. I was kind of undersized for the group of guys I fought, so I had to use what I had. I was only about 195 pounds when I played, but I had the leverage side from wrestling and I could throw both hands.”

Q: We did a little research and found that you piled up 154 penalty minutes in 30 games against the Wolves during your career. That included seven fights with Wolves players – four of them against Francis Lessard in a two-month stretch of the 2002-03 season (Note: Lessard ranks fourth on the AHL’s all-time list for penalty minutes). There was even a game where you and Lessard fought twice in the same period. What was the deal between you two?

 

A: (chuckling) “I didn’t like him, for starters. He played very hard and he was very aggressive. I was more trying to get involved with the Wolves’ good players. Francis, I think he just liked fighting. If I would get around somebody like Steve Maltais, it was very likely Francis would be on my doorstep right away.”

Stay tuned for Rocky II soon.

Header and article image credit: Aaron Bell and Terry Wilson/CHL Images


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