Miles Gilbert "Tim" Horton (January 12, 1930 – February 21, 1974) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player, a defenceman for 24 seasons in the National Hockey League. He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres. Also a successful businessman, Horton was a co-founder of the Tim Hortons restaurant chain.

Early life

Born in Cochrane, Ontario, at Lady Minto Hospital, Horton's parents were Ethel May (née Irish) and Aaron Oakley Horton, a Canadian National Railway mechanic. Tim had one brother, Gerry Horton. He had English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.

The family moved in 1935 to Duparquet, Quebec, returning to Ontario in 1938 to Cochrane; the family moved to Sudbury in 1945.

Playing career

Horton grew up playing ice hockey in Cochrane, and later in mining country near Timmins. The Toronto Maple Leafs organization signed him; in 1948 he moved to Toronto to play junior hockey and attended St. Michael's College School.

Two years later, he turned pro with the Leafs' farm team, the Pittsburgh Hornets of the American Hockey League; he spent most of the first three seasons with Pittsburgh. Playing in his first NHL game on March 26, 1950, Horton did not appear in the NHL again until the fall of 1952. He remained a Leaf until 1970, winning four Stanley Cups. Horton later played for the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres. Horton was known for his tremendous strength and calmness under pressure. As a hard-working and durable defenceman, Horton gained relatively few penalty minutes for an enforcer-type defenceman. Horton was also an effective puck carrier – in 1964–65 he played right wing for the Leafs. Horton appeared in seven National Hockey League All-Star Games. He was named an NHL First Team All-Star three times: (1964, 1968, and 1969). He was selected to the NHL Second Team three times: (1954, 1963, 1967).

Between February 11, 1961, and February 4, 1968, Horton appeared in 486 consecutive regular-season games; this remains the Leafs club record for consecutive games and was the NHL record for consecutive games by a defencemen until broken on February 8, 2007, by Karlis Skrastins.

Horton had a reputation for enveloping players fighting him, in a crushing bear hug.

While playing, Horton was generally acknowledged as the strongest man in the game; injuries and age were little more than minor inconveniences. Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bobby Hull declared, "There were defencemen you had to fear because they were vicious and would slam you into the boards from behind, for one, Eddie Shore. But you respected Tim Horton because he didn't need that type of intimidation. He used his tremendous strength and talent to keep you in check."

In 1962, he scored three goals and 13 assists in 12 playoff games, setting a Leafs team record for playoff points by a defenceman. This record was tied in 1978 by Ian Turnbull (who played 13 games); but was not broken until 1994, when David Ellett registered 18 points (albeit in 18 games).

At age 41, Horton signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1971 for an estimated $100,000, the largest contract to date for the five-year-old franchise.

In spite of Horton's age, 42, and considerable nearsightedness, former Leafs general manager Punch Imlach of the Sabres acquired Horton in the intra-league draft and signed him in 1972. In 1973, his performance assisted the Sabres in their first playoff appearance. Horton later signed a contract extension in the off-season.

While playing for the Leafs, Horton wore the number 7, the same number worn by King Clancy from 1931–32 to 1936–37. The team declared both Horton and Clancy honoured players at a ceremony on November 21, 1995, but did not retire the number 7 from team use; despite this, it became an Honoured Jersey Number, abiding by Leafs honours policy. Horton wore number 2 in Buffalo (as Rick Martin already had the number 7), which was retired.

Horton believed he took too many early career penalties because of his "hot temper".

Career statistics

  Regular Season Playoffs
1946–47Copper Cliff Jr. RedmenNOJHA90001450110
1947–48St. Michael's MajorsOHA-Jr.326713137
1948–49St. Michael's MajorsOHA-Jr.329182795
1949–50Toronto Maple LeafsNHL1000210002
1949–50Pittsburgh HornetsAHL605182383
1950–51Pittsburgh HornetsAHL68826341291309916
1951–52Toronto Maple LeafsNHL40008
1951–52Pittsburgh HornetsAHL641219311461113416
1952–53Toronto Maple LeafsNHL702141685
1953–54Toronto Maple LeafsNHL70724319451124
1954–55Toronto Maple LeafsNHL67591484
1955–56Toronto Maple LeafsNHL350553620004
1956–57Toronto Maple LeafsNHL666192572
1957–58Toronto Maple LeafsNHL536202639
1958–59Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7052126761203316
1959–60Toronto Maple LeafsNHL703293269100116
1960–61Toronto Maple LeafsNHL57615217550000
1961–62Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7010283888123131616
1962–63Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7061925691013410
1963–64Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7092029711404420
1964–65Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7012162895602213
1965–66Toronto Maple LeafsNHL706222876410112
1966–67Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7081725701235825
1967–68Toronto Maple LeafsNHL694232782
1968–69Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7411294010740007
1969–70Toronto Maple LeafsNHL593192291
1969–70New York RangersNHL1515616611228
1970–71New York RangersNHL7821820571314514
1971–72Pittsburgh PenguinsNHL4429114040112
1972–73Buffalo SabresNHL69116175660114
1973–74Buffalo SabresNHL5506653
NHL totals14461154035181611126113950183

Doughnut industries

In 1964, Horton opened his first Tim Horton Doughnut Shop in Hamilton, Ontario on Ottawa Street. He even added a few of his culinary creations to the initial menu. By 1968, Tim Horton had become a multimillion-dollar franchise system. Horton's previous business ventures included both a hamburger restaurant and Studebaker auto dealership in Toronto.

Upon Horton's death in 1974, his business partner, Ron Joyce, bought out the Horton family's shares for $1 million and took over as sole owner of the existing chain that had 40 stores at the time and later expanded to nearly 4,600 stores in Canada alone by 2013. Joyce's son, Ron Joyce, Jr., is married to Horton's eldest daughter.

Death and aftermath

In the early morning of February 21, 1974, Horton was killed in a car accident when he lost control of his white De Tomaso Pantera sports car on the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) in St. Catharines, Ontario. He had played a game in Toronto the previous evening against his former team, the Maple Leafs, and was driving alone back to Buffalo, 100 mi (160 km) south. The Sabres had lost the game, and despite sitting out the third period and playing with a jaw and ankle injury, Horton was selected one of the game's three stars.

Horton's Pantera had been given to him by Sabres' manager Punch Imlach as an enticement to return to the team for one more season.

While driving to Buffalo, Horton stopped at his office in Oakville, and was met there by Ron Joyce. While there, Horton phoned his brother Gerry, who recognized that Tim had been drinking and tried to convince him not to go. Joyce also offered to have Horton stay with him. Horton chose to continue his drive to Buffalo.

After 4:00 a.m. EST (9:00 UTC), a woman reported to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in Burlington that she had observed a car travelling at a high rate of speed on the QEW. A warning was broadcast over police radio. Thirty minutes later, OPP Officer Mike Gula observed a speeding vehicle travelling Niagara-bound on the QEW in Vineland. Gula activated his siren and attempted to pursue Horton's vehicle, but lost sight of it.

Horton passed a curve in the road at Ontario Street and was approaching the Lake Street exit in St. Catharines when he lost control and drove into the centre grass median, where his tire caught a recessed sewer and then flipped several times before coming to a stop on its roof in the Toronto-bound lanes. Not wearing a seatbelt, Horton was found 123 ft (37 m) from the car. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the St. Catharines General Hospital.

Subsequent to Horton's death, there was no official public inquiry, and his autopsy was not made public. Police would not state if Horton was driving drunk. In 2005, the autopsy was made public (with witness statements redacted) and revealed that Horton's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit, and that a half-filled vodka bottle was amongst the crash debris. Horton was also in possession of the drugs Dexedrine (a stimulant) and Dexamyl (a stimulant-sedative), and traces of amobarbital (an ingredient in Dexamyl) were found in his blood. The autopsy report found no painkillers in Horton's body, and also concluded that his car had been in good working order. There was nothing to suggest Horton was evading police, or that police got near enough to initiate a criminal pursuit. Horton was interred at York Cemetery in Toronto.

Married in 1952, he left a wife, the former Lori Michalek of Pittsburgh, and four daughters.

Following Horton's death, Ron Joyce offered Horton's widow Lori $1 million for her shares in the chain, which included 40 stores. She accepted his offer and Joyce became sole owner. Years later, Lori became dissatisfied with Joyce's offer, and filed a lawsuit against him. In 1993, Lori lost the lawsuit; an appeal was declined in 1995 and she died in 2000 at the age of 68. Tim and Lori were survived by four daughters: Jeri-Lyn (Horton-Joyce), Traci (Simone), Kim, and Kelly. Jeri-Lyn married Joyce's son (Ron Jr.) and owns a store in Cobourg, Ontario.

Awards and achievements