Today marks the 50th anniversary of Tim Horton’s death following crash in St. Catharines, Ontario


Published February 21, 2024 at 4:19 pm

Tim Horton 50th Anniversary of passing

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Tim Horton’s death, and numerous sports organizations, athletes and individuals are honouring both the legendary NHL defenceman and the legacy he left behind.

Horton was born in Cochrane, Ontario in 1930, and after moving between Ontario and Quebec with his family during his early years, he eventually found his place in the NHL after he graduated from Toronto’s junior league.

Horton then started his tenure playing defense for the Toronto Maple Leafs and during this time, he would help them win four Stanley Cups. 

Apart from his status as a towering, sturdy and level-headed defenceman, Horton maintained an entrepreneurial spirit, and successfully launched the now-celebrated Tim Hortons franchise in Southern Ontario in 1964, all while still playing for the Leafs.

The now multi-million dollar franchise, much like the game of hockey itself, is synonymous with the Canadian spirit. However, to some, this was achieved at the cost of the memory of the actual Tim behind “Tim’s.”

“My guess is that most of the people who pull into a Tim Horton’s today – at least the ones outside Canada – don’t know who Tim Horton was. The name of the restaurant is ubiquitous, but the man behind the name has been lost to time,” wrote Sal Maiorana for the Democrat & Chronicle

After his time with the Leafs, Horton would go on to play defence for the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, respectively. It was tragically during his time playing for Buffalo that Horton lost control of his sports car while passing through St. Catharines on Feb. 21, 1974, dying on the scene as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

In 2005, the police report of the incident was released for public record, revealing that at the time of death, Horton had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system.

“The news was impossible to believe. It stands as unquestionably the darkest single moment in Sabres’ history. Defenceman Tim Horton, then 44 years old and revered to his much younger teammates, was dead,” wrote Mike Harrington in a recent article for The Buffalo News, which honoured the late sportsman and entrepreneur. 

Tim Horton’s legacy lingers on now, five decades after his passing.

While his legacy is as big and complicated as the man himself, there is an undeniable weight that comes with the memory of this Canadian icon who has nearly become a folk hero, even if this weight is something as simple as a coffee and doughnut. 

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