I remember going to a concert with a friend in Lethbridge, Alberta, probably in the 70s. I’d vaguely heard of the guy – Stompin’ Tom Connors – but I didn’t know what to expect. Well … onto the stage came this fellow dressed in black, including his stetson hat, and carrying a wooden board. He set it down under one of his feet, grabbed his guitar, and launched himself into “The Hockey Song”, all the while smashing his cowboy boot in rhythm on the wood. My God, but he was an original!
I know you probably don’t know the tune, but close your eyes and let your mind run free:
Hello out there, we’re on the air, it’s ‘Hockey Night’ tonight
Tension grows, the whistle blows, and the puck goes down the ice
The goalie jumps, and the players bump, and the fans all go insane
Someone roars, “Bobby Scores!”, at the good ol’ hockey game
Where players dash, with skates aflash, the home team trails behind
But they grab the puck, and go bursting up, and they’re down across the line
They storm the crease, like bumble bees, they travel like a burning flame
We see them slide, the puck inside, it’s a 1-1 hockey game
Oh take me where, the hockey players, face off down the rink
And the Stanley Cup, is all filled up, for the champs who win the drink
Now the final flick, of a hockey stick, and the one gigantic scream
“The puck is in! The home team wins!”, the good ol’ hockey game
Snippets of this song are still played at rinks all over Canada during breaks in the play.
Tom was born in New Brunswick and was taken from his mom at an early age by the Children’s Aid. He eventually was adopted but took off from that family at age 15 to go hitchhiking across the country with his guitar. And the hitching continued as he explored Canada and brought his music to the locals. Many, many concerts and albums later, Tom was given the Order of Canada, perhaps the highest honour that civilian citizens can receive.
Tom was himself, writing songs that he liked, about his back aching after picking tobacco in Tillsonburg, Ontario, or drinking a bit too much after his shift at the nickel mine in Sudbury, Ontario. He didn’t fit in with the Canadian music industry but the people loved him. And still do.
Tom died in 2013. He wrote a goodbye, which was published in newspapers after his death. The man and the human being shine through:
Hello friends. I want all my fans – past, present or future – to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin’ Tom.
It was a long, hard, bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with its beauty, character and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.
I must now pass the torch to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the patriot Canada needs now and in the future.
I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes. I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.