Remembering Tim “Tool Time” Taylor

Part-time center Tim Taylor scored 25 points for the Detroit Red Wings in the 1995-1996 season.

During his NHL career, which included parts of four seasons and a Stanley Cup in Detroit, Tim Taylor was known as a “character guy,” one of those loyal, rock-steady, dependable types who are indispensable on the ice, inside the locker room, and out in the community.

There was another level of meaning to the term “character guy,” as Taylor came along at the same time Tim Allen was cashing in as the the star of the top-rated TV comedy, Home Improvement. Allen’s character was “Tim Taylor,” the fictional host of the show-within-a-show, Tool Time. It was inevitable that Tim Taylor the hockey player would be nicknamed “Tool Time.”

Unlike Allen’s accident-prone character, the real Tim Taylor actually could operate a power tool without endangering the family. During the labor impasse that delayed the start of the 1994-95 season, he filled in his free time working on a new hobby: furniture-making. His father-in-law had a shop, showed him a few things, and soon Taylor was making a nightstand, changing table, and dresser for his infant daughter. “They turned out pretty good,” he said.

The same can be said of Taylor’s hockey career, which started in his hockey-mad hometown of Stratford, Ontario. His fondest memories as a kid were playing road hockey with his brothers, one of whom, Chris, also played in the NHL. “I loved the NHL, but my biggest thing was to play for my hometown and the fans here,” Taylor said. “I wanted to play at the big rink, the Allman. Once I made the All-Star team, it was a big deal to play at the Allman in front of my friends and my family. I was fortunate to grow up next a rink and I was there every day. Hockey is everything to the people of this city. There’s a long history of players coming from here going to the NHL, like [Howie] Morenz, [Nick] Libett, me, and Craig Hartsburg.”

A left-handed shot, Taylor played center and left wing during 13 NHL seasons. Although he was a defensive-minded forward in the NHL, he led the AHL in scoring with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1993-94. He came up to the parent club for a single game that year and notched his first NHL goal, at the Montreal Forum. “It was a great feeling,” he said. “But for me it was a long time coming. Once it came, it was like Christmas – you look forward to it the whole year and then it comes and goes so fast.”

As a fourth-line forward, Taylor made the most of his opportunities under Scotty Bowman. Although he got into only two games in the 1997 playoff run, he was in uniform to hoist the Stanley Cup the evening Detroit completed a Finals sweep in Philadelphia. Boston claimed him off waivers in the offseason, and Taylor responded with 20 goals and 31 points, both career highs. He spent another year in Boston before moving on to the New York Rangers.

By now a seasoned and respected veteran, Taylor played two seasons in New York before being traded to Tampa Bay, where he won a second Stanley Cup in 2004. Two years later he was named captain, but hip surgery caused him to retire in 2008. Today he is director of player development for the St. Louis Blues. His heart continues to reside in Stratford, where he met his wife and where they choose to raise their two children, close to family, friends, and the game they love.

“You are a product of your environment and coming from a blue-collar city like Stratford shaped me,” Taylor said. “We’re just blue-collar people who grew up loving hockey.”

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About Richard Bak

Richard Bak grew up on Detroit's west side doing poor imitations of Dick McAuliffe's batting stance and Denny McLain's leg kick. He is a contributing writer to Hour Detroit magazine and the author of nearly 30 books, including biographies of Ty Cobb and Joe Louis. Bak's most recent books are The Big Jump, the story of Charles Lindbergh and the great New York-to-Paris air race of the 1920s, and Detroitland, a collection of his history pieces. He currently is finishing two more books of history: Soldier of Misfortune: The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik and Its Aftermath (DaCapo) and When Lions Were Kings: The Detroit Lions and the Fabulous Fifties (Wayne State University Press), both of which will be published in 2015.