Hart, Cecil "Cece" : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Hart, Cecil "Cece"

Cecil Hart

Hart was the coach of the Montreal Canadien Stanley Cup Championship teams of 1929-30 and 1930-31. In 1923, Cecil’s father Dr. David Hart donated to the NHL (National Hockey League) the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league’s Most Valuable Player. The original Hart Trophy was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960 and replaced by the Hart Memorial Trophy, named after Cecil. He is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Nov. 28, 1883 - d. July 1940

Career Highlights:
A direct descendent of Canada's first Jewish settler, Aaron Hart, Cecil organized and managed amateur baseball and hockey teams for the Star Club of Montreal from 1900-1922. In 1910, he was secretary-treasurer of the Montreal City Hockey League, and he held the same office for the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association. In the second decade of the 20th century, Hart inaugurated an international amateur hockey series between the U.S. and Canada for the Art Ross Cup. In the first such faceoff, Hart's Star team defeated Hobie Baker's St. Nicholas Club.

In 1921, Cece turned his attention to the professional circuit, helping to negotiate the sale of the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL. Hart was appointed a club director by the new owners. Three years later, the Montreal Maroons entered the NHL (as the English-speaking team of Montreal). Hart was the new club's manager, but walked away after only a few months, after a dispute over the purchase of a player. He returned to the Canadiens as a director, but took over as head coach following the team's last place finish in 1925-26.

Hart assumed the coaching duties of the Canadiens in 1926-27, the season the team began playing at the Forum. In his first three seasons, Hart led the Canadiens to a first or second place regular season finish; the team won 18 straight games during the 1927-28 season! In 1929-30, Hart coached Montreal to the Stanley Cup title and then repeated his success in 1930-31, It was the first time in franchise history that the Canadiens won back-to-back titles, but it would be their last Cup until 1944. Hart was an innovative coach who believed that team speed and relentless pressure were the keys to the game. He retired after the 1931-32 season, leaving the Canadiens as the dominant team in the NHL. By the middle of the decade, however, the team's performance was steadily going south and sportswriters waged a newspaper campaign to bring Hart back as head coach. In 1936-37, Cece returned to lead the Canadiens to a first-place divisional finish. Hart coached until the middle of the 1939 season, when illness forced him to retire. The Montreal club qualified for the playoffs in each of the 8 seasons that Hart coached the team.

When Hart died in 1940, he was honored by his former players and opponents alike. Lester Patrick of the New York Rangers said: "Cecil Hart was always a hard manager to beat, but a better sportsman I could not have found to lose to." Bill Steward of the Chicago Blackhawks remembered: "Loyalty to his team, fairness to an opponent, and willingness to abide by the letter of the rules, are characteristics I will always remember of Cecil Hart." As one of the NHL's greatest coaches up to that time, Hart's record was unmatched and his back-to-back titles were a great accomplishment. Under his direction, the Canadiens became one of sport's most dominant franchises.

Bedford, Quebec

Career Dates:
Hart coached the Montreal Canadians from 1926-1933, and from 1936-1939.

Career Statistics:
In the NHL: (coaching)
Wins: 196
Losses: 125
Ties: 73

In the NHL playoffs:
Wins: 16
Losses: 17
Ties: 4

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League, edited by Dan Diamond, James Duplacey, Ralph Dinger, Igor Kuperman, and Eric Zweig (New York: Total Sports, 1998)
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)