Cecil Hart was one of the finest cases of greatness in Canadian hockey. Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Hart led the team to two Stanley Cup Championships. Cecil inherited a passion for hockey from his father, Dr. David Hart, who donated the Hart Trophy to the NHL in 1923. Given to the player judged most valuable to his team, the trophy was later replaced with the Hart Memorial trophy in 1960, in commemoration of Cecil.
From 1900 to 1922, Cecil organized baseball and hockey teams for his local Star Club of Montreal. Hart also served as secretary-treasurer of the Montreal City Hockey League in 1910 and held that same duty with the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association. During the 1920s Cecil went on to organize an international amateur hockey competition between the United States and Canada for the Art Ross Cup. Long known for his vision and drive, Hart led his team to victory against the St. Nicholas Club in the first match of the series, beginning his outstanding track record as a hockey coach.
Hart later went on to coach the Montreal Canadiens in 1926, with a 19-game winning streak in the 1927-1928 season. In his first three seasons as coach, Hart brought the Canadiens to a first or second place victory each regular season. Cecil then led the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup two years in a row, in 1930 and 1931. Hart retired briefly in 1932, after leading his team to a position of domination within the league.
Hart’s leadership proved to be the essential element in the Canadiens’ success, as the team quickly fell lower and lower in the NHL standings. Hart’s drive was missed so dearly that sportswriters began a newspaper campaign to bring Hart back as coach. When he did return in 1936, the Canadiens shot back up to a first-place divisional ranking. While Hart never led his team to another Stanley Cup, his coaching was nonetheless impressive. Even when the Canadiens didn’t win the Stanley Cup, they made the playoffs every year they were led by Cecil.
Hart was known for emphasizing team speed above all, putting pressure on the opponents to keep them from gaining a lead. Even rival players and coaches honored Hart’s work ethic, declaring his respect for the rules of hockey and sportsmanship unsurpassed.
Cecil Hart will be remembered by Canadians for his innovation of the game, his ability to bring out the best in his team’s players, his work ethic, his respect for the rules of hockey, and his unsurpassed sportsmanship. He leaves a legacy for us all.