Two Leafs wrestle, rival promoters combine for charity: 1932: Gary Will's TWH

A charity show in 1932 saw two teammates oppose each other and two rivals work together.

There were two big-time wrestling promoters in Toronto in 1932. There was Ivan Mickailoff, who brought weekly shows to Toronto in 1929 and promoted shows at Arena Gardens, and Jack Corcoran, who booked cards at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The two promoters came together to benefit the 50,000 Club Unemployment Relief Fund. Each promoter provided two matches -- one preliminary and one featured event -- to a combined show at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Mickailoff's main bout was between Count George Zarynoff and Pat McGill, who had both worked main events for him in the past. Corcoran's featured presentation saw Ray Steele take on Joe Cox, with a strong preliminary featuring Gino Garibaldi and John Katan -- past and future main-eventers, respectively.

Rounding out the card was a match between two notable members of the Toronto Maple Leafs: team captain Clarence "Happy" Day and penalty leader Reginald "Red" Horner -- both future hall-of-famers. It was the only time in Toronto history that members of the Leafs got involved in a wrestling show. When the match was announced, Montreal Maroons defenceman Lionel Conacher -- Canada's greatest all-round athlete -- offered to take on both Day and Horner simultaneously (two weeks later, Conacher made his pro wrestling debut with Mickailoff).

The show, held on Monday April 25, 1932, drew only 4,500 -- about half of what had been hoped (each promoter drew bigger crowds for his next show).

Apparently, Day and Horner were pro wrestling fans and were able to mimic moves popularized by real grapplers. About the match, the Globe reported that "It was expected that this would be a farcical bout, but the athletes crossed the guessers and made it an honest-to-goodness struggle, with nearly all the modern tactics on display."

William Hewitt at the Star (father of broadcasting legend Foster Hewitt) wrote, "This act was a knockout and the fans got a great kick out of it. ... The hockey players showed the fans a lot of new holds and contortions and displayed surprising speed and agility on the mat."

After the match, Leafs owner Conn Smythe said he'd never let his players risk injury like that again.

Ray Steele W Joe Cox                                    24:05
Count George Zarynoff W Pat McGill      26:50
Hap Day D Red Horner                                  10:00
Tony Catalana W Ali Hassan                         12:39
Gino Garibaldi W John Katan                        17:13

-by Gary Will