The phone call Don Luce will never forget woke him from a deep post-game sleep at 4 in the morning. And he still gets emotional when talking about it, 39 years to the day of the tragic car crash.
The morning and night Tim Horton died.
The Leafs had played the Buffalo Sabres earlier that evening, just as they did Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Sabres took a team bus to that game at Maple Leaf Gardens and rode it home safely on wintery roads. But Horton, at age 44 and a Sabres blue-liner, was given special permission to drive his own vehicle by general manager Punch Imlach.
He never made it home.
“Joe Crozier (the Sabres coach) called in the middle of the night,” said Luce. “He said, ‘Tim’s been killed in a crash.’ That was all he said. We didn’t go back to sleep. We couldn’t. We just sat up and cried, my wife and I. We didn’t know what to say, what else to do. We had a game to play that night, I think against Atlanta."