Hockey legend Gordie Howe was a surprise runner in the Olympic torch relay on Wednesday through southwestern Ontario.

The 81-year-old Hall of Famer's name was not on the list of torchbearers released in advance by organizers.

Howe, who lives in Michigan, played 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, leading them to four Stanley Cup victories.

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Olympic torchbearer Kevin Reid hugs MPP Bruce Crozier, of Essex County, after lighting the Olympic cauldron in Leamington, Ont., on Wednesday morning. ((Kim Kristy/CBC))

At 3:05 p.m., he ran the torch through River Canard, a hamlet of about 500 people located about 23 kilometres south of the Canada/U.S. border in Windsor, Ont., in one of the many stops on the road to the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February.

On Wednesday morning, the torch was driven through Leamington on a tomato harvester as a tribute to the city's reputation as the "tomato capital of Canada." 

Retired nurse Jan Lawrence rode with the torch on her first tomato harvester ride.

"I was just told to hang on tight because this was meant for a field and not out in the sidewalk!" Lawrence said giddily. 

"This is a very exciting thing," said Lawrence, of the torch relay. "It's brought unity to our community."

Local businessman Kevin Reid lit the Olympic cauldron in Leamington before throngs of cheering onlookers.

The torch will end the day in Windsor, where 15-year-old Matthew Charbonneau will light the city's cauldron at about 7 p.m.

Charbonneau's older brother, Cpl. Andrew Grenon, was killed in Afghanistan in September 2008.

"I didn't know how big of an honour it was," Charbonneau said, of lighting the cauldron. "But I later found out and I was really excited.

"I'll be thinking about my brother a lot, because he's a big reason why I'm doing this."

Torch started day in Chatham

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Chris Beausoleil, 22, of Tilbury, Ont., was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron in Chatham on Tuesday night. ((Dennis Porter/CBC))

On Tuesday night, a young man whose name translates to "beautiful sun" brought a different kind of light to southwestern Ontario when he lit the Olympic cauldron in Chatham.

Chris Beausoleil, 22, of nearby Tilbury, took the torch from Liz Czenczek, a member of Canada's women's field hockey team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. The adrenalin rushed through his body, he said, as he lowered the torch onto the cauldron's flame.

"I had butterflies in my stomach," Beausoleil said. "I was saying to myself, 'Please light, please light, please light.'

"And then once it lit, I was like, 'Oh yeah, this was the time of my life,'" he said.

That life has so far not been ordinary.

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of five, Beausoleil has become a spokesman and motivational speaker for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and has raised more than $100,000 for research into the fatal genetic disease that causes a thick layer of mucus to build up in the lungs. He is in his final year of kinesiology at the University of Windsor, and plays hockey three times a week.

"He's wanted to participate in the Olympics, and with his cystic fibrosis, he knew that that wasn't going to ever be a reality," his father, Marc Beausoleil, told CBC News.