Stellar work by Glen McGregor of the blog afewtastefulsnaps as he recently made public, for the first time, the official report from various Ontario agencies of the mysterious death of former NHL player and donut shop mogul Tim Horton in 1974.
For those of you out there who are unaware, Tim Horton was Hall of Fame NHL player with the Leafs and Rangers, Penguins and Sabres in the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s. In 1964, he started a chain of donut shops that has since grown to nearly 3,000 stores around the world. Most of the locations are in Canada and the U.S.
Horton died in a horrific single-car accident in in 1974 yet despite his celebrity, until McGregor obtained the ancient crash report from the Archives of Ontario, the details of Horton’s death remained somewhat fuzzy.
I found a loophole in Ontario’s Freedom of Information law that allowed me to get a copy of his autopsy. Under Ontario law, the privacy exemption that keeps information like autopsies from public view expires 30 years after the subject’s death. That meant Horton’s file was no longer covered by privacy provisions as of Feb. 21, 2004.
It took more than a year before I finally got the file sent to me via the Archives of Ontario. I wrote a story based on the autopsy in 2005 (Citizen links expire after three months, so this will have to do).
Police have long maintained alcohol was not a factor in Horton’s fatal accident, but from the official police account and toxicology report obtained by McGregor, we can now indisputedly confirmed that Horton was twice over the legal limit when he died.
But the 61-page report reveals details well beyond Horton’s blood alcohol level.
In the early morning hours of February 21, 1974, Horton was driving from Toronto to his home in Buffalo following a Sabres-Leafs game at MLG,
It was on the main Canadian highway between the two cities, Queen Elizabeth Way, that Horton lost control of his is De Tomaso Pantera sports car. Horton was traveling over 100 mph - with police in pursuit - when his vehicle hit a QEW concrete barrier, flipping the car several times. The impact ejected Horton from the vehicle, causing massive head injuries that killed him almost instantly.
Taken to local hospital, Horton was D.O.A..
From the responding officer’s report, we get a diagram and explanation of exactly how Horton crashed his vehicle, and the subsequent, grisly aftermath.
Along with a listing of Horton’s horrific head injuries, police also reported a 40 oz. bottle of Smirnoff vodka with the top “broken off” in the vehicle along with Dexamyl pills, a prescription amphetamine, on Horton’s person. (Popularly know by athletes of that era as “greenies.”)
Dexamyl combined dextroamphetamine with amobarbital, a barbiturate, to take the edge off. It was a popular party drug in the 60s (Andy Warhol popped them) that had also been marketed to harried housewives before it was sensibly outlawed.
Horton was likely taking these to stay competitive in the NHL. He was still playing at age 45 44 and probably felt he needed an edge to keep up with players 20 years younger.
While providing a glimpse into exactly what happened to Horton, almost as interesting was discovering what else was found in the car - and what Horton was wearing - all items frozen in time from 1974.
Morbid? Perhaps, but the docs are as much historic as forensic and well worth examining.