Born in Cochrane, Ontario in 1930, Tim Horton would make his NHL debut during the 49/50 season and by 1952 he had earned himself a permanent spot on the Leafs blue line.
Tim’s reputation as a fine defenceman was equaled only by his physical strength. Despite his brawn, Tim would rarely drop the gloves; instead he would place his opponent in a bear hug and squeeze. Hall of Fame official Red Storey would say of Tim, “He was the strongest man that ever played in the NHL, bar none. Thank God he was a nice guy.” Tim’s strength on the ice earned him the nickname Superman, while Tim’s poor eyesight forced him to wear glasses away from the game, creating a Clark Kent persona off the ice. Teammate Frank Mahovlich said of his teammate, “I never knew a player so steady. No flash… no polish... all hard work.”
On March 12, 1955, Tim endured a body check that resulted in a broken leg, dislocated shoulder and a broken jaw. Dr. Hugh Smythe observed, “He must have been suffering terrible pain, but there wasn’t a peep out of him.” Tim wouldn’t be down for long, he went on to set a club record for consecutive games played with 486, a mark that still stands today.
In 1962 the Leafs defeated Chicago and Tim would sip from the Stanley Cup for the first time. Tim would lead the Leafs in scoring that post season, totaling 16 points in 12 games. If there had been a Conn Smythe Award at the time, it surely would have been Timmy’s. Tim and the Leafs would win three more Championships, in 63 and 64 against Detroit and in 67 versus Montreal.
Following his last Cup Tim said, “I think it was one of the happiest moments I can remember in hockey… I actually thought I was going to start crying. There were tears starting to go down my cheeks… it never happened that way before.”
Tim’s strong work ethic, extended beyond the rink. He spent his summers in Conn Smythe’s gravel pit, before branching out into the coffee and doughnut industry. The first Tim Hortons restaurant opened in 1964 and today there are almost 5,000 that bear his name worldwide.
Tim Horton was the first Leaf to reach 1,000 games and in 1970 he played his final game with Toronto. He was 16 years older than the next oldest defenceman on the team. Tim played more seasons, more games, in both the regular and post season, than any other defenceman in Leafs history and only three NHL players played more seasons than Horton. He was named an NHL First or Second Team All Star on six occasions… a Leafs record and in 1977, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.