March 7 (Reuters) - Canadian country singer and folk icon Stompin' Tom Connors, known for songs "The Hockey Song," and "Sudbury Saturday Night" and his staunch patriotism, has died at age 77, his record company A-C-T Records said.
Connors died at his Ontario home on Wednesday of natural causes, A-C-T said in a statement posted on Connors' website.
Born Thomas Charles Connors in Saint John, New Brunswick, Connors was raised by foster parents on Prince Edward Island and hitchhiked across Canada as a teenager.
Connors, who penned hundreds of songs mostly about Canadian history and traditions, earned his nickname from his habit of stomping the heel of his boot while keeping a song's time.
He rose to prominence in the late 1960s, and released more than 20 albums, including "My Stompin' Grounds" and "Believe in Your Country", over a five-decade career.
Connors retired in 1979 and returned his six Juno Awards for Canadian music in protest over the Americanization of the national music industry. He returned to music in 1988.
Connors thanked his fans in a posthumous statement released by his family.
"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," Connors said in the statement posted on his website.
"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," he added.
He is survived by his wife and four children. (Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy; and Peter Galloway)