June 5, 1972 -- It's a little sad to think that many people in Western New York, especially the youngsters, only associate the name of Tim Horton with coffee. Tim was a Hall of Fame hockey player in his day, and he joined the Sabres on this date.
Horton broke into the NHL in 1950, and saw regular duty with the Maple Leafs starting in 1952. The Leafs won four Stanley Cups in the next 18 years, and Horton was a major reason why. He was as strong as any player in the league, and was rock-solid on defense -- even though he was extremely near-sighted and could barely make out the puck.
Horton had bounced around to the Rangers and Penguins through 1972. Sabres general manager Punch Imlach remembered Horton from the days together in Toronto, of course, and thought he could add some experience and smarts to his roster. So he claimed Horton from Pittsburgh in the Intra-League draft, even though Horton was 42 at the time.
Horton did what the Sabres needed him to do and then some. Jim Schoenfeld is said to have followed Horton around like a puppy, learning as much as he could. Horton is credited as one of the key reasons why the Sabres made the playoffs for the first time in 1972-73. To this date, his teammates from that team revere him.
Horton wasn't quite done with hockey at that point, so he signed a contract for the 1973-74 season. Horton died in a traffic accident the following February. We raise a glass, and not of coffee, to his memory.
--- Budd Bailey