The Passing Scene: Oh, Timmy

Amazingly, I can see it as though it happened yesterday – rather than 54 years ago. Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. I’m in goal (I kid you not). The likes of Stanley Cup winners Frank Mahovlich, Davie Keon, Tim Horton, Eddie Shack firing pucks at me. As I left the ice, Tim Horton skated past, tapped me on my rear end with his stick and said, “Great shut-out.” Ahh, memories. I mean, Tim Horton. One of the foremost defencemen in the National Hockey League, one of the greatest 100 NHL players of all time, future member of he Hockey Hall of Fame. Yes, a memorable moment – but, 44 years after his death, who remembers Tim Horton, over the years gradually eroded for commercial purposes to Timmy, Timmy’s, Timbits. If you happen to Google Tim Horton, as I did last week, you will have to go through 16 items extolling the virtues of Timmy’s, its hiring opportunities, its various coffees, Tim cards…. before arriving at a profile of Tim Horton. Tim who?

Graham Woods
Graham Woods

But I did glean that Tim Hortons the coffee shop – the name variously butchered over the years from Tim Horton’s to Tim Hortons – has conquered the world with over 4,000 outlets worldwide, including Kuwait, Fujairah, Qatar, Oman, Taguig and two, two! in Cobourg, conjuring images of people asking in different languages, who in hell is Tim Horton?; imagining walking to the local Timmy’s in Fujairah and ordering a “syma vj nldoa oer e double-double?” But, with appalling PR, Tim Hortons tripped over a Timbit earlier this year when the new Ontario minimum wage law came into effect that saw its outlets, including Cobourg’s, impose stringent working conditions – no paid lunch breaks with a nine hour shift paid at the rate of 8 hours and 20 minutes. The staff of the Cobourg outlet on Division Street, protested vehemently, supported by customers waving placards and making television’s national news programs. Which surely was not lost on the store owners, Ron Joyce Jr. and his wife Jeri Lyn Joyce – formally Jeri Lyn Horton, daughter of the long forgotten #7. $14 an hour? Let them eat cake!

The Division Street outlet is unique, the only one in the world displaying photographs of Tim Horton, humanizing Coffee Mocha and double-doubles, though I doubt Horton would have approved management’s attitude. Occasionally, parked at Fisher’s supermarket next to the same Tim Hortons, I have watched the drive-thu windows as an endless lineup of cars moves through, wondering how the servers handle the non-stop pressure. Inside the staff are on their feet hour after hour, moving to stay on top of the demand – as, co-incidentally, the Tim Hortons brand dropped over 40 places in an annual corporate reputation-ranking of 100 companies Canadians most admire over the years. But, like a Timbit, the company was swallowed by Burger King for $11.4 billion (not chump change), and double-doubled through the corporate world, variously with Restaurant Brands International, Wendy’s, and a Brazilian investment firm, 3G Capital. The money keeps rolling in and, by god, the hired help better be satisfied.

Who was Tim Horton? Now, just a name over the entrance to a coffee shop. To most Tim Hortons’ customers around the world his name has no meaning. What started as an idea 54 years ago has become simply an ordinary place where we stand in line for a coffee – just like any other franchise coffee shop. The final ignominy? It took the Toronto Maple Leafs until last year to retire Horton’s #7 jersey.

Oh! My so long-ago moment of fame in goal at Maple Leaf Gardens and subsequent shutout? It was in another life as a cinematographer for the CBC. I have to confess I did have a half-inch thick plastic screen in front of me. The Maple Leafs should try it; next season’s Vezina Trophy would be a shoe-in.

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Old Sailor

Garham, in my so long-ago moment of fame at Maple Leaf Gardens, I was on a Toronto hockey team that had the honour of playing their annual playoff finals at MLG. We made those finals three times in the 60’s. Fortunately we did not have to try and deke around #7 or deal with all of the other famous Leafs of that era. MTHL level play.

I was also involved in the Ron Joyce versus Delores Horton dispute after Tim’s accident. That dispute did not have a happy ending for either side. However, the franchises have flourished over the years. Perhaps the last two years have been the biggest challenge for the franchisees.

Keep up the good reporting. You tend to wander down roads less travelled which are of interest to all of the blog followers.

Pam Jackson

Many years ago I owned a home just down the road from the Horton’s at Woodsworth Drive and Stubbs in
Willowdale as it was then. Driving past their house I would see the family going about their daily lives and
when the news broke of his crash it touched us all in one way or another.


Well, Graham…..I think we could use your ‘goal keeping’ skills at our ‘old timers’ games in Grafton next winter. Tryouts start in October!
On another note, I’ll never forget meeting Tim Horton, face to face, as he was leaving a sports store where I was working part time, while in high school. I lived in Willowdale (Toronto) and the Horton family lived close by. The story goes, as I was about to enter the store, to start my shift, Tim was coming out with one of his young daughters, in tow. My mouth nearly dropped to the ground as this very large man (he was huge!) came through the doorway in front of me! It was Mr. Tim Horton, one of the Toronto Maple Leaf’s best defence man at the time! “Hello Mr. Horton, I said…. Hello son”, he replied with that famous grin he had. I knew right there and then, why at 5’6” tall and 150 lbs. I would never make the NHL !…….ah, memories.


Excellent & poignant writing piece Graham.

Rusty Brown

Well, “shoo-in” actually. Nothing to do with footwear.

Wally Keeler

There is also a Timmy Ho in Dubai. It displays a 15 story high coffeee cup on the side of a skyscraper. It can be seen on the left side of the screen at the 13:38 mark of this video