Former NHL defenceman Paul Shmyr died of throat cancer Thursday. He was 58.

Shmyr, a native of Cudworth, Sask., played in 343 career NHL games and 511 more in the World Hockey Association.

"Paul was a terrific teammate and, pound for pound, was probably one of the toughest guys to play the game of hockey," former teammate Al Hamilton told Canadian Press.

"He had a zest for life, which carried right though his courageous bout with cancer over the last 10 years. He will truly be missed."

Shmyr's NHL stops included time with the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota North Stars, California Golden Seals and Hartford Whalers. He also played 160 games with the Edmonton Oilers while the team was in the WHA.

He was captain of the Oilers in 1979 during the club's last season in the WHA before the team moved to the NHL. The blue-liner was also co-MVP of the 1976 WHA all-star game.

Shmyr retired from hockey after his 1981-82 campaign with the Whalers. He finished his NHL career with 13 goals, 72 assists and 528 penalty minutes.

Shmyr spent much of his post-hockey career in the Vancouver area before retiring to B.C.'s Okanagan Valley last year.

with files from Canadian Press