Jimmy Gardner learned his hockey with another great player of that time, future Hockey Hall of Fame member Dickie Boon on the sidewalks and in an area known as Boon's lane. A star left winger, Gardner played on a total of four Stanley Cup-winning teams in Montreal, two with the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association's club dubbed the "Little Men of Iron" in 1902 and 1903, and two with the Montreal Wanderers in 1909 and 1910. His personal accomplishments include being named to the IHL second team All-Star team in 1905.
Gardner coached the Montreal Canadiens of the NHA for two seasons after his retirement as a player, officiated in the minors in 1917-18, and then officiated in the Western Canada Hockey League for the 1923-24 season. Gardner coached the Hamilton Tigers to a first place in the National Hockey League in 1925 before the team went on strike prior to the playoffs because of a salary dispute. He returned to coaching in the Canadian-American League with the Providence Reds in 1928-29 and 1929-30, winning the championship in 1929-30. By the late 1930's he was coaching the Sherbrooke and Verdun teams in the Quebec League.
Jimmy Gardner was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.