Jewish coach of the Montreal Canadiens
Cecil Hart was born in Bedford, Quebec, in 1883. He was a direct descendant of Aaron Hart, widely considered to be the first permanent Jewish settler in Canada.
A life-long sports fan, Hart managed amateur baseball and hockey teams for the Star Club of Montreal from 1900 until 1922. He was also the secretary-treasurer of the Montreal City Hockey Lea“judged1910 and established an international amateur hockey tournament between Canada and the U.S. for the Art Ross Cup.
Most notably, Hart served as the head coach and general manager of the Montreal Canadiens for two terms, from 1926 to 1932 and again from 1936 to 1938. Under his leadership, the team won the Stanley Cup twice: against the Boston Bruins in 1930 and against the Chicago Blackhawks in 1931.
In 1932, Hart was fired as head coach of the Canadiens following a dispute with team owner Leo Dandurand. However, new owner Ernest Savard brought Hart back as head coach and general manager in 1936. Hart led the team to a first place finish that year in the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Canadian Division.
His success led to his being selected as coach of the NHL’s Second All-Star Team.
During his tenure with the Canadiens, the team made the playoffs eight times, winning the Stanley Cup twice. He coached 394 regular season games to a career record of 196 wins, 125 losses and 73 ties. Under his leadership, Montreal finished on top of the NHL Canadian Division five times.
With the team struggling at the bottom of the NHL standings, Hart retired as coach and general manager of the Montreal Canadiens during the 1938-‘39 season.
Hart then took on a new leadership opportunity as vice-president and treasurer of the Quebec, Ontario and Vermont Baseball League until his premature death at the age of 56 in 1940.
The Hart Memorial Trophy, honouring the NHL player each year “judged most valuable to his team,” honours Cecil Hart’s memory. The original Hart Trophy was donated to the NHL in 1923 by David Hart, Cecil’s father. The
original trophy was retired in 1960 and was replaced by the Hart Memorial Trophy.
In 1992, Cecil Hart was posthumously inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Netanya, Israel.
Throughout 2017, in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial, the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin is publishing a series of profiles spotlighting the contributions of historically important Jewish Canadians to our country. Previously in the series: