Stompin’ Tom Connors, 77; Canadian singer wrote hockey standard

Mr. Connors sang “The Hockey Song” before a Leafs game.
Mike Cassese/Reuters/File 2005
Mr. Connors sang “The Hockey Song” before a Leafs game.

PETERBOROUGH, Ontario — Canadian country-folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors, whose toe-tapping musical spirit and fierce patriotism established him as one of Canada’s biggest cultural icons, died Wednesday night at 77, his promoter said.

Brian Edwards said Mr. Connors died from natural causes at his home. The musician, rarely seen without his signature black cowboy hat and stomping cowboy boots, was best known for songs ‘‘Sudbury Saturday Night,’’ “Bud the Spud,’’ and especially ‘‘The Hockey Song,’’ a fan favorite played at hockey arenas around North America.

Those three songs are played at every Toronto Maple Leafs home game. On Wednesday night, many fans took to their feet as ‘‘The Hockey Song’’ was played after Mr. Connors’ death was announced.


Although wide commercial appeal eluded Mr. Connors for much of his four-decade career, his songs have come to be regarded as veritable national anthems thanks to their unabashed embrace of all things Canadiana.

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‘‘The hockey song was the biggest one,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘Domestically he was known everywhere.’’

On Twitter, 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.’’

Dubbed Stompin’ Tom for his propensity to pound the floor with his left foot during performances, Mr. Connors garnered a devoted following through straight-ahead country-folk tunes that drew inspiration from his extensive travels and focused on the everyman.


He often complained that not enough songs were being written about his homeland.

‘‘I don’t know why I seem to be the only one, or almost the only one, writing about this country,’’ Mr. Connors said in 2008. ‘‘This country is the most underwritten country in the world as far as songs are concerned. We starve. The people in this country are starving for songs about their homeland.’’

He was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, to an unwed teenage mother. According to his autobiography, ‘‘Before the Fame,’’ he often lived hand-to-mouth, hitchhiking with his mother from the age of 3, begging on the street by the age of 4. At age 8, 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.

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

He 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 gave him a drink if he would play a few songs, and that turned into a 14-month residency.