Tim Horton was born in Cochrane, Ontario on January 12, 1930. He was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1949 and performed as one of the steadiest defencemen on the blueline throughout his 22 years in the National Hockey League. He played in 1,446 regular season games, scoring 115 goals and 403 assists for a total of 518 points.
He played 17 full seasons and 3 partial seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He served a short stint with the New York Rangers before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. His final years in hockey were with the Buffalo Sabres, where he played a major role in developing the team's younger players. Tim Horton played on four Stanley Cup teams, was an All-Star player six times, and was honoured in 1969 with the J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup in recognition of his outstanding service to the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club. George Armstrong says of Tim, "No finer person, teammate or hockey player ever lived." In Bobby Hull's words, "Few players brought more dedication or honour to the game. He was my idea of a pro."
One of the most heartfelt tributes came from Punch Imlach, then of the Buffalo Sabres. Tim played for Imlach in Toronto during the glory years of the 1960's, and when Buffalo had a chance to pick him up, Imlach didn't hesitate. "I know he was the backbone of our team in Buffalo", said Imlach. "(His death) was a terrible loss, not only to his family and the team, but to the game of hockey."
Gordie Howe has called Tim Horton hockey's strongest man. In a fight, Horton was known to edge into the melee and "grab a couple" of players to help keep the peace. But despite his legendary strength, he was not a proponent of violence on the ice. Some claim Tim invented the slap shot, and he could always be counted on to get the puck out of his own end of the ice with his "heads up" skating style.
Outside the rink, Tim was just as sharp. He realized that his hockey career would not last forever and sought to find a clever way to add to his hockey salary. After many summers of hustling to make an off-season living, Tim decided to try his luck in the coffee and donut business. The first Tim Hortons franchise opened in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario. In 1967, with three restaurants in operation, Tim became full partners with former police officer and franchisee of Tim Hortons Restaurant #1, Ron Joyce. Since then, Tim's signature has become a prominent fixture in the Canadian landscape.
Sadly, Tim did not live to witness the chain's great success. He was traveling back to Buffalo from a game at Maple Leaf Gardens when he was killed in an automobile accident on February 21, 1974. The Buffalo Sabres retired his Number 2 sweater as a tribute to his memory. At the time of Tim's death, there were 40 Tim Hortons restaurants.
Tim Horton always considered his good fortune in the proper perspective. He was modestly confident about his abilities, was approachable, generous and considerate. His memory will always be held dear by family, friends, players and business associates alike.