5:15 p.m. Dec. 19----
For most Americans, Tim Hortons coffee and donuts are forbidden pleasures.
Like going to Cuba.
You can't find too many Tim Hortons in the United States, although I hear there are some in the Detroit area. Regular Scratch Cribber Bob Roth always stops at one in South Portland, Maine.
Tim Hortons coffee is smoother than Dunkin' Donuts (I don't drink Starbucks) and it is perfect for driving the boring Highway 401 between Windsor and Toronto, Ontario as I did earlier this summer.
Insiders order the Tim Hortons "double-double." That's coffee with two creams and two sugars. There are many fine Tim Hortons shops to stop at along Highway 401........
I also love "Timmys" (as Canadians call them) because of the namesake's illustrious background.
Tim Horton was a hockey player. Think Pete Rose on ice skates.
"I thought he was like that Dave guy from Wendy's," Scratch Cribber Roth reported.
The Tim Horton exhibit case was one of the first things I visited during this summer's trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto. "He played until his mid-40s when he died in a car accident," said Philip Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame curator and vice president of Resource Center. "But now everyone knows him for his coffee and donut shops in Canada. A lot of people today don't realize that Tim Horton who owned the coffee and donut shop used to be one of the best players that ever played the game. He was one of the game's best defensemen and one of the strongest players as well."
The Tim Horton case you see here includes his Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, his final career game Buffalo Sabres jersey and stick, a Toronto Maple Leafs wallet and his 1947-59 St. Michael's Majors OHA Rookie-of-the-Year Trophy.
Horton died in 1974 at the age of 44. I remember seeing him play when I followed the Blackhawks and the other original 5 NHL teams (Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, New York and Boston). During the late 1960s the general consensus was that the Blackhawks Bobby Hull was the only NHL player stronger than the muscular 5'10" 180 pound Horton.
Horton opened his first donut shop in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario. I love Hortons so much I became a fan of Tim Hortons on my Facebook page (also see www.timhortons.com).
Check out the Facebook posts: "...You aren't really a Tim Hortons fan if you put butter on the bagel first and then cream cheese (so Canadian!)....."Tim Hortons is a simple coffee shop, not meant for low fat vegetarian alternatives or mochafrappachinos its basically a place where you can sit down with some buddies and have a plain old damn good coffee and doughnuts. Embrace it people....."
The hit movie "Wayne's World" also paid homage to Hortons' with a similar "Stan Mikita's Doughnuts."
Unfortunately, Horton should have been drinking some of his own coffee when he met his untimely demise.
On Feb. 21, 1974 he was driving a white De Tomaso Pantera sports car (a gift from Buffalo Sabres General Manager Punch Imlach) from Toronto to Buffalo. Horton lost control of the car at 4:30 a.m. while taking a curve on the Queen Elizabeth Way superhighway. He smacked into a cement culvert. According to Wikipedia, the impact flipped the vehicle and Horton was tossed from the car. He was not wearing a seat belt. Horton was D.O.A. at a nearby hospital. A police officer pursuing the car said Horton's vehicle had been traveling over 100 MPH. An autopsy report released in 2005 revealed Horton had a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit.
Soon after Horton's death his coffee shop partner Ron Joyce (formerly a Hamilton cop) offered Horton's widow Lori $1 million for her shares in the chain, which at the time included 40 stores. Joyce became sole owner after she accepted his offer. In another weird twist of fate, Joyce's son married Horton's daughter returning the Horton family name to the company. Today there are 2,733 Hortons in Canada and 345 in the United States. We need one in Chicago. They could just open up in all our vacated Krispy Kremes.
One sip of Hortons coffee takes me back to an era of crew cuts, black and white TV and basic beliefs. "What I get paid for are the practices," Miles Gilbert "Tim" Horton once said. "I would play the games for nothing."