April 25, 2015

Gizzy Hart

Gizzy Hart was a hockey star in the 1920s and 1930s.

Though Wilfred Harold Hart was born in Brandon, Manitoba in 1901, the Hart family moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 1914. He rose to prominence as a hockey presence in Weyburn, as well as an excellent baseball player and track star.

But he was at his best on the ice. He starred for the Weyburn Wanderers junior and senior hockey teams, challenging for the Allan Cup in 1923.

After his strong showing in 1923 Hart jumped to Vancouver Island out west in British Columbia to turn pro with the Victoria Cougars of the PCHA/WCHL. He had a particularly strong year, scoring 15 goals - the second most on the team behind only Hall of Famer Frank Fredrickson. He was named to the PCHA All Star team.

Hart's production levelled off the following two years, scoring 8 goals and 6 goals, respectively. But the Cougars team was as strong as any hockey team in the country. The Cougars won the Stanley Cup in 1925, the last non-NHL team to do so. Gizzy Hart even scored the Stanley Cup winning goal! In 1926 the Cougars returned to defend their championship but ultimately lost in the final to the Montreal Maroons.

Major league hockey out west collapsed in 1926 and the NHL secured the playing services of the best of the west. The entire Victoria Cougars team was purchased by hockey interests in Detroit. The team was moved to the NHL as an expansion franchise, and eventually would be renamed the Red Wings. Hart moved, too, and was given sweater number 13. Records are murky, but Hart may have become the first player in NHL history to wear number 13.

By the time the short and stocky Hart got to the NHL he was not putting up fantastic numbers any longer. After playing two scoreless games with the Detroit Cougars in 1926-27, Hart's contract was sold to the Montreal Canadiens. Over the next two seasons Gizzy contributed six goals and 11 points over 84 games.

The fantastic skater was perhaps better known to Montrealers for his intermission entertainment than his in game play. Players used to kill time during the break with timed puck carrying sprints, with Gizzy winning his fair share of competitions.

In 1928-29 the Montreal Canadiens shuttled him off to the Providence Reds of the CAHL where he played for another six seasons. Hart was a prolific scorer at this level, especially when teaming together with linemate Hago Harrington. They finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in CAHL scoring in 1931-32, trailing only Lloyd Klein of Boston.

Hart did get called back up for an 18 game trial with the Habs in 1932-33. He played sparingly, picking up only two assists.

Hart retired as a pro in 1934 and returned to Weyburn to coach many teams over the years. He would live in Weyburn the rest of his life.

Gizzy Hart passed away in 1964 at the age of 63.

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