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How Stompin’ Tom planned his own public memorial in Peterborough, right down to the performers

Stompin' Tom Connors performs at Live from Rideau Hall in Ottawa June 16, 2002.


A tribute to Stompin' Tom Connors, which the singer himself helped plan before he died, will take place at the Peterborough Memorial Centre Wednesday evening.

Although an online petition calling for a state funeral had been posted earlier in the week by the website, the man behind The Hockey Song apparently felt that a hockey arena would be the most appropriate place to say goodbye. Furthermore, he wanted to thank the city where he picked up his nickname — it was bestowed by a waiter at the King George Tavern in 1967 — and so the honours fell to the home of the Peterborough Petes.

Billed as a "celebration of life," the puck will drop at 7 p.m. ET. The doors will open at the Memorial Centre at 5:00 p.m.

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In addition to having chosen the venue for his farewell party, Connors also assembled a wish list of performers and speakers. As of Tuesday afternoon, organizers were still scrambling to nail down a final tally of who, exactly, will be on hand to pay tribute, but so far the list is as impressive and wide-ranging as Connors' own career.

Among those speaking are Ken Dryden, whose career includes stints both as a Liberal MP and Montreal Canadiens goalie; former governor general Adrienne Clarkson; Deane Cameron, who was head of EMI Records in Canada when it handled Connors' recordings; Brian Edwards of Rockland Entertainment, Connor's long-time promoter; and Peterborough mayor Daryl Bennett.

It may seem an odd grouping, but it's what Connors wanted. As Edwards told The Canadian Press, "Nobody knew exactly what he wanted more than he did."

Edwards also was allowed access to Connors' private archives, and says that the presentation will feature many photos and videos, including pictures taken during his retreat from the music industry in the late 1970s and 1980s. There was no word on whether the six Junos he angrily returned in 1978 will be included.

Naturally, there will be singing. Dave Bidini, lead singer of the Rheostatics and one of those responsible for drawing Connors out of retirement in the late 1980s, will offer some songs, as will J.P. Cormier, who joined Connors' band at age 19 and claims that Connors was "the first person to give [him] a regular paycheck." Dave Gunning, who played  bass in Connors' band — there's a funny video on YouTube of him describing his "job interview" — will also do a few tunes.

Other performers confirmed so far include Sylvia Tyson, from the celebrated 1960s folk duo Ian & Sylvia, and Juno-nominated country singer Cindy Church. It's expected that more names will be added to the bill, but organizers were still trying to finalize details at press time.

No word as yet on whether NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Andrew Cash will reprise their House of Commons performance of Bud the Spud.

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There will not be tickets for the event; seating will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. According to a spokesperson, organizers "will try to accommodate as many people as we can." Capacity at the Memorial Centre is roughly 3,800.

There will not be screens or speakers outside to accommodate any overflow from the arena. However, organizers expect that many public places in Peterborough will be carrying the memorial on TV.

Plans are in the works for the entire celebration to be streamed online, in real time. In addition, a number of cable operations, including TV Cogeco, CPAC and CP24, will carry the event live.

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