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Rocky Hockey: Barons assistant Rocky Thompson looks back on wild career

OKC BARONS — Ask Rocky Thompson what kind of hockey player he was, and he gives you an honest answer: ‘I was mean.' Today, he's a family man whose kids tease him about the popularity of his fights on YouTube.
BY ED GODFREY, Staff Writer, egodfrey@opubco.com Published: January 12, 2012
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photo - Then and now: Rocky Thompson as a player (left) and now as a Barons assistant. LEFT PHOTO FROM THE CALGARY HERALD/RIGHT PHOTO BY CHRIS LANSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
Then and now: Rocky Thompson as a player (left) and now as a Barons assistant. LEFT PHOTO FROM THE CALGARY HERALD/RIGHT PHOTO BY CHRIS LANSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN

Ask Rocky Thompson what kind of hockey player he was and he gives you an honest answer.

“I was mean,” said the Oklahoma City Barons' assistant coach.

Thompson, 34, played 10 full seasons of professional hockey, mostly in the American Hockey League. He appeared in 25 National Hockey League games, 15 with the Calgary Flames and 10 with the Florida Panthers.

In those 10 years, he amassed more than 2,000 penalty minutes. In his 25 NHL games alone, he logged 117 penalty minutes.

In his first four NHL games, Thompson was involved in six fights. Many of his hockey fights are still frequently viewed on YouTube today.

Thompson is the guy with long hair flying with every punch. He's missing most of his front teeth. At times, Thompson appeared to be a wild man on ice.

“I wanted people to think I was crazy,” Thompson said. “The only way to make them think you're crazy is to do crazy things sometimes. It was all calculated.”

Born to Brawl

Perhaps Thompson was destined to be a fighter.

Born in 1977, the year after the first Rocky movie was released, his father named him after his favorite boxer, Rocky Marciano.

As a kid in Canada named Rocky, Thompson often was given the opportunity to prove he was a tough guy.

“With a name like Rocky, you kind of have to live up to it a little bit growing up,” Thompson said.

As a young and aggressive player, Thompson literally fought himself into the Western Hockey League, a major junior hockey league for ages 16 to 20 in western Canada and the northwestern United States.

“I wanted to play hockey bad enough at that level that I was willing to do things that others wouldn't do,” he said. “I knew that was what would get me to the NHL.”

Thompson played four years in the WHL before being drafted in 1995 by the Calgary Flames where he made his professional debut for the Flames' AHL affiliate, the Saint John Flames.

Over the next 10 years with seven different AHL teams and two NHL clubs, Thompson inflicted his physical and punishing brand of “Rocky Hockey” on opponents.

“When I played defense, you had to pay a price if you wanted to be in front of the net,” he said. “If I didn't do those type of things, I wouldn't be doing my job very well.”

The Enforcer

Thompson played hard and loved to win.

“I did whatever it took to win,” Thompson said. “I grew up wrestling. I grew up boxing. So when I was able to get on the ice, (fighting) was something I could do.

“I was an aggressive player, so that happened quite often. I wasn't the most gifted player growing up at all. I didn't have great hands. I was never a great skater. But what I am proud about most was that I was able to learn the positions on the ice. I played both defense and forward and developed myself as a hockey player and became a true pro.”

However, being the enforcer for his teams was Thompson's primary role.

In his career as a pro and a junior player, Thompson estimates he was involved in as many as 300 hockey fights.

“Hockey can be a sport of intimidation,” he said. “That's something I was very good at. To go out and intimidate another team's good players is really what a good enforcer will do, ultimately scaring good players on the other team where you take away their strengths.”

A Golden Gloves champion boxer, Thompson used his wrestling and boxing experience to his advantage on the ice. Those YouTube videos prove that Rocky could give and take a punch against some of the toughest players in the game.

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