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.
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.
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).
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".
|1946–47||Copper Cliff Jr. Redmen||NOJHA||9||0||0||0||14||5||0||1||1||0|
|1947–48||St. Michael's Majors||OHA-Jr.||32||6||7||13||137||—||—||—||—||—|
|1948–49||St. Michael's Majors||OHA-Jr.||32||9||18||27||95||—||—||—||—||—|
|1949–50||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||1||0||0||0||2||1||0||0||0||2|
|1951–52||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||4||0||0||0||8||—||—||—||—||—|
|1952–53||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||2||14||16||85||—||—||—||—||—|
|1953–54||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||7||24||31||94||5||1||1||2||4|
|1954–55||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||67||5||9||14||84||—||—||—||—||—|
|1955–56||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||35||0||5||5||36||2||0||0||0||4|
|1956–57||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||66||6||19||25||72||—||—||—||—||—|
|1957–58||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||53||6||20||26||39||—||—||—||—||—|
|1958–59||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||5||21||26||76||12||0||3||3||16|
|1959–60||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||3||29||32||69||10||0||1||1||6|
|1960–61||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||57||6||15||21||75||5||0||0||0||0|
|1961–62||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||10||28||38||88||12||3||13||16||16|
|1962–63||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||6||19||25||69||10||1||3||4||10|
|1963–64||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||9||20||29||71||14||0||4||4||20|
|1964–65||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||12||16||28||95||6||0||2||2||13|
|1965–66||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||6||22||28||76||4||1||0||1||12|
|1966–67||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||8||17||25||70||12||3||5||8||25|
|1967–68||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||69||4||23||27||82||—||—||—||—||—|
|1968–69||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||74||11||29||40||107||4||0||0||0||7|
|1969–70||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||59||3||19||22||91||—||—||—||—||—|
|1969–70||New York Rangers||NHL||15||1||5||6||16||6||1||1||2||28|
|1970–71||New York Rangers||NHL||78||2||18||20||57||13||1||4||5||14|
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
- Named to NHL First All-Star Team in 1964, 1968, and 1969
- Named to NHL Second All-Star Team in 1954, 1963, and 1967
- 1961–62 – Stanley Cup champion
- 1962–63 – Stanley Cup champion
- 1963–64 – Stanley Cup champion
- 1966–67 – Stanley Cup champion
- 1977 – Inducted (posthumously) into the Hockey Hall of Fame
- 1982 – Inducted (posthumously) into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame
- 1996 – Number 2 retired by the Buffalo Sabres
- 1998 – Ranked number 43 on The Hockey News list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.
- 2004 – Ranked number 59 in The Greatest Canadian list by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- 2015 - Recipient of the Bruce Prentice Legacy Award by the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.