'The Hockey Song' singer Connors dies at 77

Stompin' Tom Connors, creator of 'The Hockey Song,' died Wednesday of natural causes at age 77.

By Helene Elliott

If you’ve ever been to a hockey game in Canada, or watched a game being televised from the Great White North, you know Stompin’ Tom Connors and his work.

Connors, who penned and sang “The Hockey Song,” played at just about every hockey game or tournament. If its lyrics weren’t exactly profound, it was somehow charming and uniquely Canadian and a part of the hockey experience.

Connors, a well-known and respected country and folk singer in Canada, died Wednesday of natural causes at age 77, according to various sources that cited a release that had been posted by his family on his official website, www.stompintom.com.

Connors leaves his wife, four children, several grandchildren and 61 recorded albums, including 10 that have not yet been released, the statement on his website said.

Along with “The Hockey Song,” the musician, rarely seen without his signature black cowboy hat and stomping cowboy boots, was best known for songs ''Sudbury Saturday Night'' and ''Bud the Spud.

Those three songs are played at every Toronto Maple Leafs home game. At Toronto's Air Canada Centre Wednesday night, many fans took to their feet as ''The Hockey Song'' was played after Connors' death was announced.

On Twitter, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said ''we have lost a true Canadian original. R.I.P. Stompin' Tom Connors. You played the best game that could be played.''

The National Hockey League tweeted: ''Sad to hear that legendary Canadian Stompin' Tom Connors has passed. His legacy lives on in arenas every time `The Hockey Song' is played.''

Connors knew his health was declining and had posted a message on his website a few days ago, saying Canada kept him ''inspired with its beauty, character, and spirit.''

Dubbed Stompin' Tom for his habit of pounding the floor with his left foot during performances, Connors garnered a devoted following through straight-ahead country-folk tunes that drew inspiration from his extensive travels around Canada, dating back to his itinerant teenage years when he roamed the country working one job or another.

He was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, on Feb. 9, 1936, to an unwed teenage mother. According to his autobiography, ''Before the Fame,'' he often lived hand-to-mouth as a youngster, hitchhiking with his mother from the age of three, begging on the street by the age of four. At age eight, he was placed in the care of the charity Children's Aid and adopted a year later by a family in Skinner's Pond, Prince Edward Island. He ran away four years later to hitchhike across Canada.

Connors bought his first guitar at age 14 and picked up odd jobs as he wandered from town to town, at times working on fishing boats, as a grave digger, tobacco picker and fry cook.

Connors is said to have begun his musical career when he found himself a nickel short of a beer at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario, in 1964 at age 28. The bartender agreed to give him a drink if he would play a few songs, and that turned into a 14-month contract to play at the hotel. Three years later, Connors made his first album and garnered his first hit in 1970 with ''Bud The Spud.''

Hundreds more songs followed, many based on actual events, people and towns he had visited.

He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1996, one of the country's highest honors. He also had his own postage stamp.

In his memory, his song should be played in every NHL rink in the next few days, north and south of the border. One more stomp for Stompin’ Tom Connors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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