Defenceman Tim Horton was certainly one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game and he tragically lost his life in a car accident in 1974. He was 44 years old at the time and had played in 1446 NHL games. Little known to most, Tim Horton had a close brush with death at the age of 21 after playing one NHL game the year previous.
The 1950/51 season saw Horton play his second full season with Toronto's top farm team the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets. He had tallied 34 points in 68 games an gotten into one game with the Leafs that year. In his own autobiography, Leaf teammate Danny Lewicki tells of how close Horton came to losing his life even more pre-maturely than he did 23 years later.
Lewicki says,"Tim was lucky to be at the camp as he came very close to being killed that summer in his hometown (Cochrane, Ont.). Apparently in June, a native of Sudbury by the name of Clarence Brousseau went berserk with a rifle killing three people. Tim lived a few blocks away from this deadly character. Brushing elbows with an ambulance driver who was trying to assist the three lying on the ground, Tim tried to lend a hand. He heard a couple of rifle shots and a ping right next to where he was assisting the ambulance driver. The fleet footed Horton took off. He later said he could not remember in what direction he ran as all he saw was railroad tracks beneath when he looked down. He was to take a lot of kidding later as the boys told him he would have no trouble dodging pucks after the way he dodged bullets. Tim took it all in good stride saying, 'All I know is that after the episode the colour of my shorts were the same as your brown eyes.' "
Now, I did some research on this event and found a shooting involving a Clarence Brousseau in Sudbury Ont. on June 18, 1949. A full two years before Lewicki's rendition of events and more than 200 km south of Horton's home town of Cochrane. It is possible that Tim Horton could have been involved in the 1949 incident. He had played the 1948/49 season with Toronto St.Mikes and he certainly could have been in Sudbury that fateful day. Perhaps Lewicki's memory of the events was embellished, perhaps Horton was indeed there and turned his shorts brown. Either way, it makes for a good tale.