Friday, May 17, 2002

Stompin' the tulips
Ottawa Sun

Stompin' Tom Connors proves that there is life after hockey.

The patriotic Canadian troubadour from Skinner's Pond, P.E.I., visits the Tulip Festival tonight at Major's Hill Park with The Skydiggers and The Headstones.

Connors, who has criss-crossed the country more times than he can count, looking to turn small-town happenings into national cultural events, is back with a brand new album Ode for the Road.

Despite the fact he received a Governor-General's award and the Order of Canada last year, the capital's not always been so hospitable to Connors and his hockey anthem, The Hockey Game.

In 1993, in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack, Sun columnist Earl McRae tore a strip off the singer-songwriter and his Valley fans for being simple-minded.

Apparently, the rustic lyrical song inspired much loathing in the columnist.

McRae wrote, "The Hockey Song is terrible," that Connors as a singer was a national embarrassment and that all those appreciative fans could only have come from the Ottawa Valley.

Ouch! Earl!
For Connors, the torpedo shot did not go unnoticed.

"McRae didn't like it at all when the Senators started playing it. They were the first team to play it," said Stompin' Tom from his home near Guelph.

"I was wondering if Earl McRae had something to do with it," he laughs, but he's not finding it that funny.

Despite all his grassroots popularity, he's really just starting to get the professional respect he deserves.

A lot of younger singer-songwriters cite Connors as a major influence.

Connors' almost laughably earnest ditties like Bud The Spud, Sudbury Saturday Night and I Am the Wind, just don't fit any radio format.

So, if radio won't play him, Connors goes to the fans.

There are a lot of miles on his shoes. Connors collects songs on the road the way most people collect Air Miles.

Despite a gruelling tour schedule and weekly writing sessions, he's been stealing some time to watch the playoffs.

"Right now I want any Canadian team to take the Cup," Connors says with equanimity, considering the chill he's received in Ontario.

"But then, I've always been partial to the (Montreal) Canadiens."

So that explains it.

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