Thirty years after his death, Tim Horton remains one of the most recognized names around the hockey world. And it’s not just because of his chain of donut shops.
Horton, a legendary defenseman who started his 25-year pro career with three seasons in the AHL, was killed in a car accident on Feb. 21, 1974, driving back to Buffalo after leading his Sabres in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Horton won a Calder Cup championship with the Pittsburgh Hornets in 1952 before establishing himself as a top-flight NHL blueliner, winning four Stanley Cup titles over 20 seasons with Toronto. He went on to play for the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins before joining the Sabres.
“Tim was bigger than the game,” recalled former Sabres defenseman and current Hartford Wolf Pack general manager Jim Schoenfeld, in an interview for NHL.com. “Bigger than his position. Bigger than the number he wore. He was actually bigger than the spot he held on the team. Tim was a giant of a player.”
Horton’s number 2 hangs from the rafters of the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, retired by the Sabres. His number 7 has been honored by the Maple Leafs. The Cochrane, Ont., native was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977.
His legacy lives on 30 years after his death. The Tim Hortons chain of donut and coffee shops began in 1964, and there are now more than 2,200 locations in Canada and over 150 more in the United States. And the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization committed to providing a fun-filled camp environment for children from economically disadvantaged homes.
Said fellow AHL alumnus and long-time teammate George Armstrong: “No finer person, teammate or hockey player ever lived.”