Greenville’s Vincent “Vin” Cimini is to Rhode Island ice hockey what Ken Jennings is to “Jeopardy,” a walking encyclopedia.

In Cimini’s case, the label refers to his knowledge of hockey as played in the Ocean State from its earliest beginnings right up through today.

When you first talk to him about it, he will tell you of the many people who played the sport in the state, the origins of the game in these parts, its history, its little-known facts, and almost anything else related to hockey.

At some point in his conversation, Cimini will almost certainly say, “I know too much about hockey,” a self-assessment he seems to frequently declare. He’s got it backwards, though. It’s not that he knows too much, it’s that the rest of us don’t know enough.

Vin set out to rectify that and to share with the world his knowledge and love of the state’s hockey heritage and those who made the sport as popular in Rhode Island as it is in Canada.

In 2016, Cimini became the founding chairman of the Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame, a nonprofit association established in collaboration with the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society and RI Hockey Inc., which represents all the youth hockey leagues in Rhode Island.

On its website (rihhof.com) The Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame explains its purpose this way: “The mission ... is to preserve and showcase the rich history and heritage of the game of hockey in our state while recognizing the accomplishments and contributions of players, coaches, administrators, officials, and teams. New members will be inducted annually for extraordinary achievement and contributions to the game over the course of their careers.”

Cimini, 74, seems especially well equipped to spearhead such an enterprise. A self-described “rink rat” who grew up across the street from the iconic, now long since demolished Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence, he was a standout goaltender at La Salle Academy, and he became the publicity director for the Rhode Island Reds at the tender age of 18 while a student at Providence College.

That position was in fact the beginning of a long career in advertising for Cimini, which continues to the present day. He has his own advertising and public relations firm with his son Craig. It is called Cimini and Company.

“I can write, I played hockey, I know the game, I arrange events, and I can promote,” he says without a trace of ego. In other words, he is the right man for the job.

However, he doesn’t take sole credit for getting the organization off the ground. It required a dedicated group of hockey enthusiasts and contributors to the sport to establish it, and Cimini acknowledges them repeatedly.

Today the executive board consists of Mal Goldenberg, a director of the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society; Robert Larence, former president of RI Hockey and a former rink owner; William O’Connor, an officer of the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society; Mark Divver, former assistant sports editor at the Providence Journal; Art Martone, former sports editor at the Providence Journal and former managing editor of NBC sports Boston; and Ray Morgan, RI hockey tournaments director and former NE Yankee Conference Hockey Festival coordinator. Directors emeritus are Arnie Bailey, Buster Clegg, and Richard Oliver. “It’s like the Mount Rushmore of hockey,” Cimini observes.

The organization, besides enshrining honored players, coaches, and contributors to the sport, is a repository of hundreds of photos and articles chronicling the advent and development of ice hockey in the Ocean State. For example, there are more than 140 state champion high school team photos on the website. Included are little known facts of the role played by individuals, schools, and community leaders, as well as the influence of professional and business organizations, such as the Rhode Island Reds of the American Hockey League, in the growth of hockey’s popularity in the state.

Some of the great names in the National Hockey League got their start playing for the Reds, which for a long time was an affiliate of the New York Rangers. Those, combined with the future stars who played for the Reds’ opponents, made Providence and the rest of the state a hotbed of hockey enthusiasm from the mid-1920s onward. Today, the Providence Bruins, the minor league team of the Boston Bruins, is based at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, continuing the tradition.

“Our mission is to preserve and showcase this incredible history, which otherwise would be lost in the fog of time,” Cimini comments, noting that “the Hall of Fame hopes to create a permanent museum and portable public exhibits to showcase the state’s illustrious hockey history.”

His personal experience prepared him well for the part he is playing in achieving that end. From the time his father, also named Vincent, took him to his first Reds game at age 8, he was captivated.

Hanging out at the Rhode Island Auditorium with the other neighborhood rink rats scrounging ice time to play pick-up games allowed him to get to know the management of the place.

By the time he was a teenager, he was taking Saturday classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, so he was pressed into service painting signs around the auditorium. Soon enough, he was hired by the general manager, Jack Martin.

“I thought I was going to paint more signs, but I became an assistant to Jack Martin. I was a kid about to begin college, and here I was writing news releases,” he recounts, noting that he was then named publicity director.

For four years he sent out daily releases about the Reds and events at the auditorium and became part of the staff, getting known by Lou Pieri who owned the facility and the team, and meeting people with connections to the business and advertising worlds, among them J. Howard “Howie” King. Like Cimini, King was a La Salle alum and hockey lover. King owned an ad agency and eventually hired Cimini as creative director.

The skills he learned early, polished in college and crafted through his career, all contribute to Cimini’s deep commitment to the mission of the hockey hall of fame.

He sums it up with his personal motto: “I believe that a person is not truly forgotten as long as someone somewhere is saying their name.

(Contact me at smithpublarry@gmail.com)

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