The media coverage of the Burger King/Tim Hortons merger rumpus has generally been devoid of one thing: Who the hell is Tim Horton?
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal helpfully provided the answer, compliments of Gerald Eskenazi.
The Real Tim Horton
Amid the media attention to Burger King Worldwide’s plan to buy the Canadian coffee-and-doughnuts chain Tim Hortons Inc. for about $11 billion, I keep wondering: Does anyone involved know who Tim Horton was?
I got to know Tim Horton, perhaps the finest hockey defender of his day, when he became a New York Ranger late in the 1969-70 season and I was a sportswriter covering the team for the New York Times. By then the future Hockey Hall of Fame member had put in nearly 19 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, skated with four Stanley Cup champions, and played more games than any defenseman in National Hockey League history. And he was different from any hockey player I had met.
And more successful than most hockey players in the business world, thanks to his chain of 18 Tim Horton Donut shops. But then, this . . .
His franchise business had blossomed Canada-wide, but the old pro was helping a young, on-the-rise Buffalo team. In February 1974, the Sabres played a game in Toronto and left on the team bus to return home. Tim had permission to come back on his own. He drove a customized sports car that had been a gift from the Sabres’ general manager when Tim signed with the club. Reports varied on what happened, but this much seems clear: The car was traveling at more than 100 miles an hour; Tim had a high blood-alcohol level; and he had taken painkillers after being hit in the jaw in practice a few days before. He died in a one-car crash in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Sadly, “[t]he Tim Horton story has no happy ending, and the company that bears his name does little to acknowledge him.”
But the Journal did.