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Hopped up over Tim Hortons

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    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........


......In fact Tim Hortons are about the only things to stop at through miles and miles of farm land and South Canadian prairie.
     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.

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     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."

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9 Comments

Wow. Back in those days, we knew every guy on all six teams. Loved and hated them with the same level of passion. Before helmets, we could identify with the guys. We knew how they got every scar, every chipped or lost tooth and every perpetually black eye. I'm not familiar with the coffee shops. I'll have to get to one. Years ago, Stan "Stosh" Mikita owned a bar in Oak Brook Center...Stan Mikita's Village Inn. My mother let Tony and I go in there after dental appointments that yielded only single digit numbers of cavaties. I had kiddie cocktails. I think my brother opted for something heartier. Different days back then...

I did not know about Stan Mikita's joint, although I drive by Gunzo's in Berwyn. Someone should do a story on that. That's where the Blackhawks bought all their sticks and equipment, right?.....

Timmy's is a tradition when you go to Canada. A friend from B.C. keeps taunting me about getting a double-double every so often, and laughing I cannot get one. Cruel and unusual punishment if you ask me.

The U.S. is prime for a couple of Horton's, but alas, none will ever be in the Icebox of Iowa; Mason City.

Gunzo's is, was and always will be the official outlet for hockey gear, amateur and professional alike. In the old days, the guys would order, pickup and tape their own sticks. I'm sure now they tape their sticks (a precision job), but the rest of the stuff is handled by an equipment manager. You should go in there. They used to have pictures hanging all over the place of the greats. They probably still do. I haven't been by there in ages. Now you've reminded me, I'll have to roll in there one of these days. Hockey is becoming more popular again with the new regime in charge. Looking forward to the New Year's Day game outside.

Going to Tim Horton's means that I'm on vacation in Canada.

Oh Happy Day!

Reasons to Love Canada:

Tim Hortons
Rush
The Great Gretzky
The Niagara Peninsula
Queens Quay
Northern Lights
Inukshuks
Snowmen and Snowdogs (snowomen too eh)
Polar Bears in the North
Abundant beauty and splendor in the West

Living in Canada (Toronto),I avoid "Timmie's" like the plague. It's mediocre coffee at most (unless you enjoy mediocrity).

You're not missing much. Stick to your independent fair-trade-organic coffee shops (if you have them in Chicago).

... or your local greasy spoon.

O what I would do for a Tim Horton's in Iowa. Have you heard of the pairing of Cold Stone and Timmy's? I keep writing and asking them to choose a store in Iowa to pair up at!

Tim Hortons now dominate the other side of the Peace Bridge, Buffalo and WNY. The coffee is the best around. Never mind that burnt roast crap at Starbucks.

Hi there, I can't find where to e-mail Tim Horton's so I will send my comments to you. I live in Hull, Gatineau, and my friends have been going to tim horton's for a iced cappucino but everytime we have gone , the girl at the counter tells us they are having problems with the machine, so we end up dissapointed and end up buying a coffe instead. tim horton is losing money, many of my friend love ice capucino and wonder why the don't fix the machine. It was our meeting place , to go and sit and just talk and enjoy a capucino. Joan tim horton we go to is at 656 boulvd. st-joseph in Hull,quebec.

When I was 15 I would scrimmage with Tim, I think he was 22. He was the best guy on the Pittsburgh Hornets (AHL) as a player and a person. At that time.I was practicing to go on the road with Ice Capades so, our practice time followed the Hornets practice. I would get on the ice a little early and Tim and I would knock the puck around a little. He was always happy when I would score a goal which for him was nothing. My uncle owned the Hornets as well as being President of Ice Capades in those days so, skating was in my blood. When Tim went to Toronto they became my favorite NHL Team now it's the Penguins; but, the Maple Leafs are seccond. I saw. Tim in Toronto and later in Montreal. We were playing in the Forum and Toronto was getting ready to play Montreal the next night. I'll always remember Tim's kindness to everyone and his true love of hockey. A few years ago I was living in Kettle Falls, in Washington State for 3 1/2 years, writing one of my three books so, I would drive to Trail British Columbia to watch the Smoke Eaters, the Trail hockey games and I made it a point to eat something at Tim Hortons just for the memories..........

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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