Tim Hortons was a hamburger joint before a doughnut shop


Published February 4, 2023 at 10:20 am

It has been almost 49 years since the NHL star and doughnut giant Tim Horton’s fatal car crash on the St. Catharines QEW stretch between the Ontario and Lake Street exit.

To Gen Xers, Millennials and those younger, Tim Hortons is just the name of a popular doughnut and coffee chain throughout Canada and the northern United States, even though there are over 5000 restaurants of them in 14 countries around the world.

However, Baby-boomers will remember the actual man – a long-time Toronto Maple Leaf stay-at-home, strong-as-an-ox defenceman, who was a stalwart with the squad over four Stanley Cups in the 1960s.

But on February 21, 1974, that all came to a crashing end when Horton, then a Buffalo Sabres at the age of 44, was driving home to Buffalo after a game against the Leafs and lost control of his De Tomaso Pantera sports car, doing a speed of over 160 km/h (100 mph).

It is believed (but not definitively known) that Niagara Police were in pursuit of the car for its excessive speed at the time before Horton lost control of the speedster on a curved section over the Twelve Mile Creek.

The car slid off the highway then hit a concrete drainage culvert, causing it to flip a number of times. Horton, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, flew out the passenger door, landing nearly 25 metres away. The police pursuing him were the first on scene and Horton was pronounced dead-on-arrival at the hospital.

One former St. Catharines resident saw a post about the accident on Facebook and recalled, “Remember this like it was yesterday! It happened right out front of our house on the QEW (between Ontario St. and Lake St.) Woke up from the sound, we saw his car and a body on the highway quite far from the car. We had no idea whom it was.”

Oddly, the results of Horton’s autopsy were released until over 30 years later in 2005. He was driving at twice the legal limit for alcohol and has traces of an antidepressant-appetite suppressant drug in his system.

However, he did live long enough to see his doughnut outlets flourishing, which had become a multi-million dollar franchise system by 1968. The first outlet was opened in Hamilton in 1964.

Prior to that, he tried a couple of business ventures. In those days, a career in the NHL was both low-paying and short-lived so many sought outside investment opportunities. In fact, Horton’s best payday was a one-year, $100,000 contract with the Pittsburgh Penguin in 1971-72 – at that time, the largest contract the five-year club had ever inked with a player.

The interesting thing is that even before Tim Horton Donuts, there was Tim Horton Hamburgers.

The Tim Horton Hamburgers restaurant was in North Bay, Ontario. Almost 4 hour drive from Toronto.

The location preceded the doughnut chain by a couple of years that opened in the early 1960s.

He had two Tim Horton Hamburger and Drive-In restaurants in North Bay and Toronto.

He also once tried owning a Tim Horton Motors in north Toronto which was a sports car dealership.

Both endeavours failed.

That said, for those Canadians too young to remember the player, his legacy lives on with his coffee shops.

Tim Horton's Hamberger  
Former Toronto Maple Leafs star defenceman Tim Horton and the failed burger place in North Bay that preceded the doughnut empire.

insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising