In 1969, two tough 15-year-old Winnipeg boys got into a tussle. That's how it started.
Aspiring boxer Rod Toombs handled the larger Cam Connor, sparking an enduring friendship that has lasted more than four decades. It wasn't the last fight for either kid.
Connor eventually was a first-round pick of the NHL and the World Hockey Association. In a pro career that lasted 10 seasons, he won a Stanley Cup with the 1979 Montreal Canadiens and totaled more than 1,000 penalty minutes.
Toombs adopted the moniker "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and became a pro wrestling icon.
Former NHL player Cam Connor
and wrestling star "Rowdy" Roddy Piper are still buddies long after growing up and scrapping together in Winnipeg. (Photos: Getty / Rebecca Taylor ( MSG Photos)
"I whupped him and we became friends," Piper told NHL.com. "He was the only friend from my childhood. I love him. He's the only guy I keep in touch with."
The pair spent countless hours at the gym working out and engaging in dozens of wrestling matches. Even back then, the future Roddy Piper didn't like to lose at wrestling. Piper was navigating numerous wrestling circuits when his best friend was selected by the Phoenix Roadrunners with the fourth pick in the 1974 WHA Draft.
From there, Connor quickly established himself as one of hockey's toughest players. In his second season with Phoenix, he had 18 goals and 295 penalty minutes in 73 games.
Just as Connor's hockey career was winding down, "Rowdy" Roddy was becoming a worldwide phenomenon. His hockey-playing pal was there every step of the way.
"We became good buddies," said Connor, who retired in 1984 and has worked for the past 18 years as a computer consultant. "We hitchhiked to Toronto together. I was with him his first day he got into wrestling at a local circuit in Winnipeg. He fought all over the world and had me come and meet him. I was there when he fought Mr. T. I was in the fifth row sitting there with Billy Crystal."