Val James

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Val James
Born (1957-02-14) February 14, 1957 (age 57)
Ocala, FL, USA
Height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight 205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
Position Left Wing
Shot Left
Played for Buffalo Sabres
Toronto Maple Leafs
NHL Draft 184th overall, 1977
Detroit Red Wings
Playing career 1978–1988

Valmore Curtis James (born February 14, 1957) is a retired American professional ice hockey left winger, as well as defenseman, who played 2 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. He was born in Ocala, Florida and raised on Long Island, NY. It was on Long Island that James began skating and playing ice hockey in Commack, NY where his father was employed as the manager of an ice rink.[1] James was the first African American to play in the NHL when he debuted with the Sabres, although he was not the first black player. He was preceded by several Black Canadians, starting with Willie O'Ree (Bruins 58-61).[2] Also, although James was the first African American to have played in the NHL, his time playing junior hockey in Quebec meant that he was not the first exclusively U.S.-trained African American in the league; that milestone would not occur until 1996, when Mike Grier made his NHL debut.[3] James was also the first native-born Floridian to play in the NHL.[4]

Playing career[edit]

James was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 16th Round, 184th overall in the 1977 NHL Entry Draft after playing 2 seasons in the QMJHL for the Quebec Remparts.[5] He also played several seasons, in the late '70s, for the Erie Blades in a league which featured the famed Johnstown Jets and the Carlson/Hanson brothers, whose story was featured in the 1977 Comedic film Slap Shot. His propensity for using the hip check garnered notoriety in the Erie County Field House. James made his NHL debut for the Buffalo Sabres during the 1981-82 NHL season, playing seven games.[6] His next NHL stint came in the 1986-87 NHL season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing four games. As an African-American, James often faced situations at all levels of his career where he was the victim of incidents of racial prejudice by opposing fans, and, sometimes, opposing players.

On the ice, James became revered for his fighting ability. Spirited bouts and victories over noted ruffians Terry O'Reilly (Boston Bruins) and John Kordic distinguish his record. One of the NHL's all-time top enforcers, Dave Brown, singled out Val James as one of the hardest punching players, and toughest opponents, he had ever fought.[7]

Val James's Autobiography Black Ice: The Val James Story, by Valmore James and John Gallagher, is scheduled by ECW Press for worldwide distribution to coincide with Black History Month in February 2015.[8]


  1. ^ Frank, Mark (December 1, 1981). "Popular Val James Works to Fulfill a Dream". UPI. 
  2. ^ "Val Edwin James", Legends of Hockey, Hockey Hall of Fame, retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ Allen, Kevin (January 14, 2008). "Willie O'Ree still blazing way in NHL 50 years later". USA Today. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Neveau, Jim. "O’Ree, James’ Contributions Worth Remembering on MLK Day". Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Neveau, James. "O’Ree, James’ Contributions Worth Remembering on MLK Day". Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Brown, Dave. 
  8. ^ James, Valmore (February 2015). Black Ice: The Val James Story (First ed.). NY, NY: ECW Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-77041-201-9. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 

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