The Ace of Harts
Jimmy "Ace" Hart was one of the most well known Rhode Island amateur athletes of his era. He attended Hope Street High in Providence where he was a star on the football, hockey and baseball teams. He twice made First Team All-State in football playing end. His senior year he hit .362 and was First Team All State in baseball at shortstop. He led Hope to league championships in football, baseball and hockey his final year in 1918. He continued his dedication to sports by becoming one of the leading all-around amateur athletes in the state into the 1930s. He played third base in Tim O'Niell's Providence Amateur League for the I.C.I. (1922-27) nine winning a league batting title in 1926. He captained their championship teams in 1922 and 1925. He also played for Second Ward (1929) and Waldorf Clothiers (1930). He played in the Providence Twilight League often pitching for Autocar (1924) and Builders Iron (1926). He also played for the independent East Sides.
"Ace" played quarterback for Holy Name in local amateur football in 1922. Ice polo, a precursor to ice hockey, was very popular in the early part of the 1900's. They played outdoors, often in ankle deep slush and sometimes they went through the ice. Hart was a star ice poloist and played first rush for the Holy Name and East Sides ice polo clubs. He captained the East Sides in the 1920s often facing their rivals, the Elmwood Independents, New England champions, on Blackstone Pond. Due to his stature, sometimes the Corona Club would sign him to play against the Independents.
"Ace" continued to play ice hockey (and ice polo) in the same season. The R.I. Auditorium opened in March 1926 and hockey was now indoors. Rumor has it Hart was the first person to skate on Auditorium ice. He was selected to play for a Providence club assembled at the end of 1925-26 season to compete against the popular New England teams playing at the new Arena The Providence Journal reported that, "no team in the history of indoor and outdoor sport in the city of Providence received more loyal support than the initial play of the club". They made their debut with a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over the Knickerbocker A.C. of New York and were upended by Pere Marquette of Boston 3-2.
He suited up for the Bankers in the new Industrial Hockey League in 1926-27. He help lead the Newports to the Blackstone Amateur Hockey League and state championship in 1928-29 and won the 1929-30 Rhode Island Amateur Hockey League championship with the East Side Hockey Club. The East Siders also reached the semi-finals in the 1st annual New England Open Amateur Hockey Tournament at the Auditorium. He continued with the R.I. Scarlets (Rhode Island's all-star amateur hockey team) in 1931-32. They played the Polish Olympic team at the Auditorium in 1932. "Ace" opened the scoring but the Scarlets lost 3-2 in front of 2700 spectators. They would win the 1932 NEAAU championship beating the defending champion Nashua Hockey Club 1-0 for the crown at the Auditorium.
While he was playing he was also officiating and coaching. He coached the Hope High hockey team in 1928 and 1929 and amateur sextets like the Providence Amateurs of the Rhode Island Amateur Hockey Association in 1931-32. He also coached Bryant & Stratton College (now Bryant University) in baseball. He had a 45 year career officiating baseball and football starting in 1919. He was the past president of both organizations in Rhode Island. He also officiated basketball. He refereed hockey for 25 years including in the Inter-City Amateur Hockey League (1932-33 to 1940-41) and the interscholastic Hockey League at the Auditorium. On one infamous night "Ace" was punched in the face by a Woonsocket Marquette player in a New England Amateur Hockey League game which caused a stir at the Auditorium in 1938. "Ace" was a true athlete who gave back to sport as much as what he put into it.