On today’s date in 1930, hockey legend Miles Gilbert Horton was born in Cochrane, Ont., northeast of Timmins.
Better known as Tim Horton, he played for 24 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs (1949-70), New York Rangers (1970-71), Pittsburgh Penguins (1971-72) and Buffalo Sabres (1972-74). In that time, he won four Stanley Cups, including in 1967, when Toronto won its last championship.
His other NHL achievements include:
- being named to the First All-Star Team in 1964, 1968 and 1969;
- being named to the Second All-Star Team in 1954, 1963 and 1967;
- being posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977;
- being posthumously inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in 1982;
- having his #2 jersey retired by the Buffalo Sabres in 1996;
- ranking #43 on The Hockey News list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players in 1998;
- ranking #59 on the CBC’s “Greatest Canadian” list in 2004;
- receiving the Bruce Prentice Legacy Award by the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2015;
- having his #7 jersey retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016; and
- being named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players in history” by the league in 2017.
An entrepreneur, Horton launched a hamburger restaurant – under the soon-to-be-famous Tim Horton name – in North Bay, Ont., in the early 1960s. He also owned a Studebaker dealership, Tim Horton Motors, on Yonge Street in Toronto about two years before opening the first Tim Horton Doughnut Shop on Ottawa Street in nearby Hamilton in 1964.
Canada’s largest quick-service restaurant chain, Tim Hortons – as the company is now known – has about 4,800 restaurants in 14 countries.
In 2014, Burger King purchased Tim Hortons for $11.4 billion US, and a few months later, the chain became a subsidiary of the holding company Restaurant Brands International, which is majority-owned by the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital.
On Feb. 21, 1974, Horton – then 44 – was killed in a car accident after losing control of his De Tomaso Pantera sports car on the Queen Elizabeth Way in St. Catharines.
He was driving alone to Buffalo following a game against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the night before. Seen travelling at high speeds in Burlington at about 4 a.m., Horton was approaching the Lake Street exit in St. Catharines when he lost control of his car, according to Tim Griggs and Lori Horton’s 1997 book, In Loving Memory: A Tribute to Tim Horton. Horton was found nearly 40 metres from his totalled car, which rolled several times before coming to a stop in the opposite lane.
“Horton was a tremendous competitor, a great person,” Montréal Canadiens manager Sam Pollock was quoted as saying in a Montréal Gazette report following the accident. “Nothing was too much, no task too great. There were no ifs, ands or buts. He did the job, injured or not.”
Known for his on-ice tenacity, Horton was “the strongest skating defenseman in hockey,” Pollock said, adding the future Hall of Famer “used his strength legally.”
“He was never vicious.”
Horton’s autopsy was only made public in 2005, more than three decades after his death.
“As an autopsy obtained by the Citizen in 2005 showed, Horton was drunk,” reads a February 2015 story from the Ottawa Citizen. “He had twice the legal limit of booze in his system. There were also indications he had been taking Dexamyl, a then-legal prescription drug that mixed dextro-amphetamine with a barbiturate.”
After his death, his business partner Ron Royce purchased the Horton family’s shares in the doughnut business – then with 40 stores – for $1 million.