|The casket of Stompin' Tom Connors is rolled past the Canadian flag during a tribute to to the Canadian legend on Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2013 at the Memorial Centre in Peterborough. (Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner/QMI AGENCY)
PETERBOROUGH, ONT. - The lights dimmed and a silence fell on the hockey arena when fans took a few seconds to say goodbye to Stompin' Tom Connors in their own way.
“I freakin' miss you, Tom,” a large male voice bellowed.
“I love you,” yelled a woman wrapped in a Canadian flag.
While Wednesday's memorial for the Canadian icon was at times sombre, the eclectic mix of fans, friends, musicians, politicians, family and everyday Canadians turned it into a celebration.
Connors’ casket came in with the vivid red escort of RCMP officers, wrapped in the Canadian flag. It was placed stage right, beside his guitar, with a perfect view of the night's festivities.
His wife Lena waved to the crowd and placed his black cowboy hat on the casket before taking her front-row seat.
"We're going to show you we really know how to throw a party," said Brian Edwards, the memorial organizer and longtime friend and Connors' promoter.
But it was former governor general of Canada Adrienne Clarkson who explained best why the Memorial Centre was filled with thousands of Canadians from Vancouver to P.E.I.
“One can think of it as ironic that a man that was born with nothing, born into nothing, should in the end have given us all so much,” she said.
It wasn't a packed house at the Memorial Centre, but it was close.
“He knew that whether you had grown up in Vancouver or Red Lake or Happy Valley-Goose Bay, we knew what he meant when he said: 'The girls are going to bingo, the boys are getting stinko and nobody talks of INCO on a summer Saturday night',” Clarkson said.
Close family and friends gathered in Peterborough for an intimate funeral Tuesday. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen Harper, presented to his family the Canadian flag that had been flying atop Parliament Hill the day before.
“That meant a lot to the family and that would have meant a lot to Tom,” Cameron said.
While the nights was characterized by standing ovation after standing ovation, it was six-time Stanley Cup winner and former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden who brought the night to its climax, ushering in a sing-along of The Hockey Song.
“Ladies and gentleman, please rise for our national hockey anthem,” he said, as the crowd roared and jumped to its feet, singing the song word for word.
Rising from his seat in the front row, Tom Connors Jr. thanked those in attendance and those across Canada watching the broadcast.
“There would be no Stompin’ Tom without you. You are the reason why he was there and did what he did,” he said.