To see Angela James play hockey was to see something amazing. Her powerful stride left all her competitors in her dust. Her bone-rattling body checks, when that was still part of the women’s game, awaited anyone who tried to catch up with her. She was, as many say, women’s hockey’s first superstar.
James was born in Toronto to an American father who moved to Canada from racially segregated Mississippi and a white Canadian mother. James got her start in hockey in the boys’ house league.
James grew up in a tough neighborhood in North Toronto and skated her way through race and gender barriers as a young black woman playing what was long thought of as the white man’s game. She made it all the way to the international stage and never came to a podium she couldn’t top, winning four world championship gold medals, as well as registering 22 goals and 34 points in 20 games over those four tournaments. She created the way for so many young Canadian women to go on to play hockey on the Olympic stage. The irony is James herself never did.
Even though she’s has since retired from her playing days, James’s legend continues to grow with each young woman who laces up the skates. In 2010, she was the first woman inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame, an honor she shared with Team USA star Cammi Granato.
James earned the nickname “The Wayne Gretzky of Women’s Hockey” after a college season at Seneca where she accomplished 50 goals and 73 points in 14 games.
Angela James is the second black player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with NHL goaltender Grant Fuhr. James was one of the first two women and the first openly gay player to get into the Hall in 2010, seven years after Fuhr’s induction.