By Randy Schultz —
Mention that name to anyone under the age of 40 today and they will tell you about a donut and coffee establishment, better known as “Tim Horton’s Café and Bake Shop.”
But to that more mature group of people (better known as over 40) they will give you a much different answer. Anyone attending a Buffalo Sabres game at the First Niagara Center can look up into the rafters of the building and see a banner hanging there with the number “2” and the name Horton on it.
Yes, the Horton hanging from the rafters and the Horton with donuts and coffee are actually one in the same.
February 21, 2019 marks the 45th anniversary of Horton’s tragic death. Horton died in the early morning hours of February 21, 1974 in a single-car accident on the QEW near St. Catharines, Ont.
The accident came just hours after the Sabres had played the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Horton, who was playing for Buffalo at the time, had been allowed to drive his own vehicle, a Pantera sports car, to and from the game.
Horton was only 44 at the time of his death and left his wife and four daughters, ages 13 to 21, as survivors. Horton’s death came as a shock to not only the Sabres but to the entire hockey world.
So just who was Tim Horton?
Born in Cochrane, Ont., Horton played 24 seasons in the National Hockey League with the Sabres, Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. A defensive defenseman (although he scored 115 goals and 403 assists), Horton was part of four Stanley Cup championship teams with the Leafs in the 1960s.
A first- or second- team All-Star during his NHL career, Horton was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977. The defenseman is remembered by many of his former Sabres teammates.
“Tim helped solidify that young Sabres defensive corps when he joined the team in the Fall of 1972,” remembered Mike Robitaille, now retired and living in the Buffalo area. “I was a part of the defensive group.
“We had a couple of rookies on that 72-73 team with Jim Schoenfeld and Larry Carriere Tim was a great mentor to them.
“He taught all of us a great deal when he was on the ice. He was like having a coach on the ice when we were out there with him.”
Carriere recalled his time spent with Horton.
“He was like a father to us,” stated Carriere. “After all he was twice our age.”
Don Luce not only played with Horton, but played against him as well.
“He really wasn’t a big man (Horton was listed at 5-10, 180-pounds), but he was one of the most powerful players I ever played against,” said Luce. “He was all muscle and was solid.
“He played a very simple game. He actually had a good shot from back at the blue line.
“Tim was a tough player to play against because he could knock you off the puck so easily. When you went into the corners with him it was a real battle.”
Luce recalled the day he found out Horton had died.
“Ironically, that last game Tim played was in Toronto,” recalled Luce. “He was the third star that night and was our best defenseman that night.
“Joe Crozier (coach of the Sabres at the time) called us in the middle of the night and informed us that Timmy had been killed in a car accident. It was a tough day for all of us.
“We had to play a home game that night against the Atlanta Flames. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the building that night.
“But those of us who played with or against Tim will never forget him. He had a lot of heart and soul.
“Tim Horton was a rock and a true Hall of Famer.”