June 27, 2010
SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Dan Kroffat
BORN: June 14, 1945 in Vancouver, B.C.
6' 0", 240 pounds
AKA: King Crow, 'Cowboy' Dan Kroffat, 'Dynamite' Dan Kroffat
The first thing to get out of the way when profiling Dan Kroffat is the question, Which one?
Both Dan Kroffats are in our Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. But one has always been Dan Kroffat, as it is his real name. This is the senior Kroffat, who is now retired. The other's real name is Phil Lafond, and he still wrestles but under his real name, no longer as Dan Kroffat.
The original Kroffat hung up the tights and boots for good in 1985, but is more than happy to re-live some of those memories for SLAM! Wrestling down the line from his Calgary used car warehouse.
Turns out that he's okay with Lafond having used his name during the early part of his career.
"No ill feelings at all," said Kroffat. When he first was told that someone else was using his name, he thought "in some ways it's a compliment."
Kroffat never met 'Kroffat / Lafond' until 1995 at the Stu Hart anniversary show in Calgary. Lafond was a huge fan, and had adopted his hero's name and persona after the elder Kroffat retired.
It was back in 1969 that Dan Kroffat first got into wrestling. He had always been athletic, and even had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Living in Vancouver, he was working as a lifeguard when wrestler, and former Mr. Universe Earl Mayner saw him and asked if he had ever considered wrestling.
Kroffat gave it a whirl under Mayner's guidance, and was soon instructed to seek out Stu Hart for proper training. He and his wife packed the bags and set out for Calgary, knowing little about what to expect. Stu Hart took Kroffat in, and started teaching him the ropes.
"He liked me right away," said Kroffat of Hart. "Before I knew it, I had a break". Replacing an injured wrestler, his first match was against Dave Ruhl.
It wasn't that long until Kroffat was headlining Stampede against the likes of Archie 'Stomper' Gouldie ("we set some records that have never been broken" in the old Calgary Corral), Gil Hayes and Tor Kamata.
In fact, for his feud against Kamata, Kroffat came up with the idea for a Step-Ladder Match.
Initially, it was a bag of money hung from the lights, and the two combatants fought for the right to the cash. But later, it was Kroffat's North American title in the rafters.
Bret Hart, who continues to be a good friend of Kroffat's to this day, took the idea with him to the WWF. And now, when Kroffat sees ladder matches, it gives him "a little bit of pride."
During his career, 'Cowboy' Kroffat fought four world champs -- Dory Funk Jr., Harley Race, Gene Kiniski and Jack Brisco, but never came away with the title. For a current reference, Kroffat explained that his style was much like Bret Hart is today -- nothing that flashy, but professionalism prevails.
Kroffat's biggest run was in Los Angeles. He was dubbed King Crow by the promoter, and held the United National championship.
Los Angeles "probably catapulted me into the big time," said Kroffat.
His peak was in a match against Seigi Sagamuchi for the title that was actually broadcast via satellite back to Japan. A star was born, and on his first -- and only -- tour of Japan, Kroffat was treated like royalty and headlined across the nation.
"I never had the interest to do it again," said Kroffat of Japan. The money was good, but it just wasn't for him.
Travelling the world, he said, was the best part of his sixteen-year career.
"I enjoyed seeing different cultures, people, cities," explained Kroffat, and those experiences helped him grow as a person.
Los Angeles, Arizona and Hawaii were places Kroffat called home for extended periods of time.
He "always stayed west", but on occasion, would fly into cities like Minneapolis or Toronto for one show.
Up until 1976, Kroffat went at the mat game "full-tilt". After that, he curtailed the number of his matches, picking his spots, and started focusing on what he wanted to do after wrestling.
"I was always positioning myself to move away from it," he said of his "time table" for his life.
Near the end of his career, he was sought out by young wrestlers with a head on their shoulders for advice about how to manage their money with the demands of the road.
Upon retiring for good in 1985, Kroffat opened Daniel's Auto Wholesale Centre (4131 Edmonton Trail NE) in Calgary, a huge warehouse for used cars.
Travelling is still a big part of his life. He and his wife of 33 years are planning an four-month trip to Australia (one of the places he never got while wrestling), and he's active hitting various charity golf tournaments around North America.
Kroffat doesn't watch today's wrestling much, except for Bret Hart's matches. Today's wrestlers, he said, tell their story through gimmicks, while the wrestlers of his era told their stories through the wrestling in the ring.
-- By GREG OLIVER, SLAM! Wrestling
DAN KROFFAT STORIES
One of the greats.He was Mr. Calgary at one time.He made the mistake of walking past the ring during one of Archie Gouldie's matches . Gouldie went nuts,jumped out of the ring and attacked Dan while Kroffatt was carrying a small child. Gouldie threw him into the ring,ripped most of his clothes off and beat him to a bloody pulp.It was a lot for a six year old me to handle,and I had to wait a week to see Dan have his revenge,but he did. I also remember him coming to help hated heel Big John Quinn when Quinn's cohorts decided to beat the bejeezers out of him. Kroffatt came running from the dressing room area straight from the showers with just his trunks on and a head full of shampoo. That's just the kind of guy he was.
Thanks for the memories Dan
Rod Glover, Regina Sask
I remember when Dan decided to go through John Foley's stable of wrestlers, one at a time, week after week. Nobody could excite the crowd like Kroffat could. Once, he was outnumbered about 4 to 1, and grabbed a chair while outside the ring. An excited fan screamed out "You're dust now chickens**t! Cowboy has a chair!" Kroffat actually had to pause a second while he laughed. An exciting wrestler who had great matches against the Honkytonk Man, Mike Shaw, Ron Starr, and others. Let's not forget his long time tag team partner, Bufalo Bill Cote, who also managed Dan for a while.
A little young during Dan's peak years for "Stampede" I seem to recall "Dynamite getting beat up a lot. I was repeatedly convinced that he was dead in the middle of the ring having sucummed to one of the "bad" guys again. Every time he got knocked out, his entire body would shake, proof to my 12 year old eyes that death was real and wrestling was not fake afterall! He was one of the best and could really sell a move!
Bring back "Dynamite" Dan Kroffat!
Mel, Calgary AB
There was one of the greatest moments of my life when Archie Gouldie refused to wrestle Dan Kroffat. So later down the road a NEW masked wrestler showed up fully clothed with mask. Had the same STOMPER moves as Archie. After a few weeks of winning matches the masked wrestler demanded a match with Archie Gouldie. The contract was signed the next week both wrestlers were battling it out... Archie on his back while the masked wrestler decided to remove the mask... with cotton baton on the eyes brows & around the mouth, no one really knew it was Cowboy Dan Kroffat. It was a very exciting night being there to see it. I don't think any of the fans knew it was Dan -- at least I didn't. Not bad of a memory of a 13 year old.