Canadian rugby star John Cannon dies at 35
Former Canadian rugby star John Cannon, centre, died of a heart attack at the age of 35. (@RugbyCanada / Twitter)
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, March 21, 2016 12:07PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 21, 2016 9:10PM EDT
The Canadian rugby community was left in shock Monday at news that former international John Cannon was dead at 35 of a suspected heart attack.
Cannon passed away early Saturday, according to his father.
"It is with great regret and sadness that we notify our ARFC rugby community of the passing of our men's coach John Cannon," the Abbotsford Rugby Football Club said in statement on Facebook.
Cannon, a hard-nosed centre, was a member of Canada's squad at the 2003 Rugby World Cup and won 31 caps for Canada between 2001 and 2007. He played professionally in England for Rotherham, Doncaster and Coventry.
"Tough. Hard-hitting. Impossible to tackle," said Ed Fairhurst, a friend and former Canadian teammate. "He could always get lower than everybody else. He was an amazing player."
"His legs seemed to be moving faster than his body sometimes," added former Canadian captain Al Charron.
Off the field, Cannon was known for his ever-present smile.
"An amazing smile," Fairhurst said. "You couldn't even see his eyes whenever he smiled, it was so big. He was a great character and a really good friend."
Fairhurst and Charron both saw Cannon at the HSBC Canada Sevens earlier this month in Vancouver.
Cannon's playing career was cut short by injury -- on and off the field.
He was recovering from an on-field concussion when he was attacked while attending a soccer match in England. He hit his head on the curb during the altercation and doctors told him not to play rugby again.
He returned to Canada and worked as a financial planner in Penticton, B.C., before moving to Abbotsford to coach rugby and work in business development for a tech company. He had a girlfriend and was enjoying life, said Fairhurst.
Other teammates took to social media to remember Cannon.
"This comes as a massive shock," former Canadian fullback James Pritchard said. "JC was one of the toughest players I've had the pleasure of playing with and against and was one of my closest friends when I first came into the Canadian setup back in 2003. He was taken way before his time and will be greatly missed. Canadian rugby has lost one of their finest. R.I.P JC."
Added Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe: "Sad to hear the passing of a ΓåòRugbyCanada legend John Cannon. What a beast he was on the field! Condolences to his family. RIP JC."
"A great teammate and even better man!" tweeted Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore.