Miles Gilbert “Tim” Horton (January 12, 1930 – February 21, 1974) was a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman – playing 24 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres – as well as a businessman and co-founder of fast food chain Tim Hortons. He died in an automobile crash in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1974 at the age of 44.
Tim Horton grew up playing ice hockey in Cochrane, and later in the mining country near Timmins. The Toronto Maple Leafs organization signed him, and 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, and most of his first three seasons were spent with Pittsburgh. He played in his first NHL game on March 26, 1950, but 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, and had relatively few penalty minutes for an enforcer-type defenceman. Horton was a hard-working and durable defenceman who was also an effective puck carrier – in 1964–65 he played right wing for the Leafs. He was named an NHL First Team All-Star three times (1964, 1968, and 1969). He was selected to the NHL Second Team three more times (1954, 1963, 1967). He appeared in six National Hockey League All-Star Games.
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 by Karlis Skrastins on February 8, 2007. On March 12, 1955, he had suffered a broken leg and jaw after being checked by Bill Gadsby of the Rangers. The injuries were so severe that he missed much of the following season, and there had been some doubt as to whether he would ever be able to return to the game.
Horton had a reputation for enveloping players who were fighting him in a crushing bear hug. Boston Bruins winger Derek Sanderson once bit Horton during a fight; years later, Horton’s widow, Lori, still wondered why. “Well,” Sanderson replied, “I felt one rib go, and I felt another rib go, so I just had—to, well, get out of there!”
Injuries and age were little more than minor inconveniences to Horton, who was generally acknowledged as the strongest man in the game while he was playing. Chicago Blackhawks winger Bobby Hull declared, “There were defensemen 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 that was tied in 1978 by Ian Turnbull (who played 13 games) and was not broken until 1994, when David Ellett registered 18 points (albeit in 18 games).
In spite of the fact that Horton was 42 years old at the time, and suffering from considerable nearsightedness, former Leafs general manager Punch Imlach signed Horton for the Sabres in 1972. His performance aided the Sabres in their first playoff appearance in 1973. He subsequently signed a contract extension in the offseason.
Horton wore the number 7 while playing for the Leafs, 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; instead, 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 that he had taken too many penalties early in his career because of his “hot temper”.
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 1967, Horton had become a multi-million 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 of 40 stores.
Today, in addition to over 3,000 locations in Canada, there are over 556 Tim Hortons Doughnut Shops in the United States, and they can be found in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Maine, Pennsylvania, and other American states, mainly in the Northeast and the Great Lakes region. There was also a Tim Hortons on the Kandahar Canadian Military base in Afghanistan until late 2011. There are also a number of Tim Hortons in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In November 2011, Tim Horton’s opened up a new location in Abu Dhabi at Mushrif Mall.
Ron Joyce’s son married Horton’s daughter, returning the Horton family to the company.