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Hockey Rinks to Coffee Drinks- The Tim Horton Story

Posted by hughrandle@gmail.com on June 2, 2012 at 6:55 PM



Drive into almost any major city with a sports team and you will find a restaurant that bears the name of one of the teams current or former players. Athletes opening restaurants nowadays is almost expected and certainly is greeted with enthusiasm when the product offered matches the athletes fame. At one point in history, however, not only was it not commonplace, it was rare. In 1964, a veteran hockey player from the Toronto Maple Leafs changed the playing field when it came to celebrity eateries. Tim Horton was born January 12, 1930 in Cochrane, Ontario Canada and had an immediate affinity to hockey. By the age of 17, he was playing for the prestigious St. Mary’s College in the OHA. He played his first NHL hockey game for the Toronto Maple Leafs at age 20 in March of 1950. I am inspired by Horton’s efforts as a hockey player. He played 20 years with the Maple Leafs, making the All-Star team 6 times, winning 4 Stanley Cup championships and holding the consecutive games played streak for the Toronto franchise (483) for a number of years, an amazing number of consecutive games with hockey’s fierce reputation. After his 20th year as a Maple Leaf, Horton was traded to the New York Islanders and played a season and a half there. Tim was then drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins where he played a season and finally at age 42 was sent to the Buffalo Sabres. You would think that by age 42 with over 1300 NHL games behind him, that Tim would be a part-time player. This was not the case as Horton not only mentored the Sabres young players, he played all but one game and was named the Sabres’ MVP during the 1972-73 season. Incidently, the Buffalo franchise reached the playoffs for the first time during that season. The following year, at age 43, Horton became one of the best paid hockey players, drawing an annual salary of $150,000. He also received a new sports car as part of his compensation. Following a game with his former team, the Maple Leafs, on February 20, 1974, Horton was killed in a one car accident in St. Catherines, Ontario in the early morning hours of February 21st. As I mentioned, Horton’s hockey skills inspire me, in 1977 he was inducted into the National Hockey League Hall of Fame. His 1446 games in days without helmets is inspiring in its own right. But what most inspires me about Tim Horton was his foresight about life after hockey. In 1964, some 14 years into his playing career, Tim Horton and partner Ron Joyce opened the first Tim Horton’s Donut Drive-In in Hamilton, Ontario. By offering donuts (some flavors created by Horton) and coffee at affordable prices, Horton had an off season bonanza. Over his playing career, Horton watched his income fluctuate from $6000 per year to $150,000, but one thing that kept growing was the donut business. By the time of Horton’s death in 1974, there were 35 Tim Horton’s. Although Tim didn’t live to see the phenomenal growth in his business, he was able to leave a legacy for his wife Lori. Ron Joyce bought out Horton’s share of the business in an arrangement that paid Lori approximately $1 million dollars per year. Years later, one of Tim Horton’s four daughters married Ron Joyce’s son, keeping the Horton family in the business. Today, there are over 3000 Tim Horton donut shops in Canada and the United States. In 2009, through an agreement with Coldstone Creamery, over 100 combination shops will be opened in the United States over the next several years. It would be a good investment in a few minutes of your time to read about old #7- Tim Horton. Whether reading about his exploits on the ice over 24 NHL seasons, or the development of one of Canadas most popular franchises, Tim Horton’s biography is one worth knowing. Today, Tim Horton Donut Shops send kids to adventure camps throughout Canada through the Tim Horton Foundation, sealing the legacy of this worthy man. If you find yourself driving through Tim Horton’s home town of Cochrane, Ontario, make sure you stop by the Tim Hortons. As you are enjoying a Timbit (similar to a donut hole) and a double double (coffee with two creams, two sugars), make sure you pay tribute to the picture of the man with buzzcut above the register. In his prime, there is Tim Horton.

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