" Statue of Tim Horton is an advertisement, not art"

The bronze billboard for the waterfront isn't a welcome sight


Given Buffalo’s love of Tim Hortons, the presence of the coffee shop in the recently opened Harbor Center is no surprise. But the addition of a statue featuring Tim Horton the hockey player is less expected – and less welcome.

The Sabres-themed Tim Hortons in the HarborCenter makes perfect sense. This is Buffalo, after all – the coffee chain maintains as indelible an association with the city as the Bills or the Erie Canal.

But celebrating Horton as a Buffalo athlete just doesn’t seem logical. Yes, Horton was a Hall of Fame player, but his storied career was spent with the Maple Leafs. Horton played for the Sabres for only the last two years of his career – he scored all of one goal during his brief tenure in Buffalo.

And while Tim Hortons – the coffee chain, not the man – may be worth celebrating, given the public’s love of their coffee and the company’s community outreach, Horton himself doesn’t deserve such accolades, at least not here in Buffalo.

Any statue of the man should rightfully be in Toronto, land of the Maple Leafs, the team with whom Horton won four Stanley Cups and set the team’s still-standing record for consecutive games.

Nonetheless, Horton’s brief appearance in Buffalo gives Tim Hortons’ local owners and Tim Hortons USA – who gave the statue to the city – enough reason to immortalize him as a Buffalo hockey great.

It probably will also help the chain sell more of the Sabres-themed pastries it offers at its HarborCenter location.

The statue would be better suited to Toronto, but at least in Buffalo it’s located in as relevant a context as possible – across from the Tim Hortons shop and right near First Niagara Center, the Sabres’ arena.

But it would be preferable to see a statue of a truly legendary Sabres player in its place, one who earned his fame in the city by playing for Buffalo rather than opening coffee shops – and someone whose “untimely death,” as the plaque in front the statue so vaguely describes, wasn’t caused by drunk driving.

The Buffalo waterfront is becoming increasingly hockey-centric, and the HarborCenter accelerates that dramatically. Including sports-themed artwork is a great idea, and a creative way to liven up the surrounding sidewalks.

But there’s a fine line between artwork and advertisements, and this statue is undeniably the latter.

It may look like a statue but its purpose is no different than a billboard.

Fortunately, no public money went helped fund this statue or its installation, but the City of Buffalo did accept the statue into is official public art collection. That decision is an embarrassment, to say the least.

Including what is clearly an advertisement, a statue that reflects corporate interests and a desire to profit rather than incite a reaction from its audience, is a mistake on the part of Buffalo.

It denigrates the rest of the art in Buffalo’s collection, making it clear that the standards for the city are low enough to include a not-so-vested expression of corporate success and popularity.

The statue of Horton may deserve a spot along the waterfront, but it certainly doesn’t merit a place in an art collection.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com