The head of Calgary's famous Hart wrestling family has died.

Stu Hart died Thursday afternoon at Calgary's Rockyview General Hospital from a stroke and complications due to diabetes and pneumonia. He was 88.

Hart was best known for developing pro wrestling in Canada. His popular Stampede Wrestling promotion ran from 1948 to the 1980s.

It was later sold to Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation in 1984.

Hart was also an outstanding athlete, playing centre for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos in the 1940s. He was also an accomplished amateur wrestler.

Hart was instrumental in helping many young wrestlers launch their careers, including most of his sons -- the most famous being Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.

Tragedy also dogged Hart's family in recent years. His son Owen was killed in a ring accident in Kansas city in 1999. Another son, Dean, died in 1990 and a 13-year-old grandson died seven years ago.

Hart's wife of 53 years, Helen, died nearly two years ago.

Hart was named to the Order of Canada on May 31, 2001.