Val James

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Val James
Born (1957-02-14) February 14, 1957 (age 58)
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 (NHL) for the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Early life[edit]

James was born in Ocala, Florida and raised on Long Island, New York. It was on Long Island that James began skating and playing ice hockey in Commack where his father was employed as the manager of an ice rink.[1] James was the first American-born black man 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.[2] While James was the first American-born black man to play in the NHL, he was not the first exclusively U.S.-trained black man in the league; that milestone did not occur until 1996, when Mike Grier made his NHL debut.[3] James was 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 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the Quebec Remparts, although he never played in any regulation games for the Red Wings.[5] He also played several seasons, in the late 1970s, for the Erie Blades, in the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). James's propensity for using hip checks garnered notoriety in the Erie County Field House, home of the Blades. He signed with the Buffalo Sabres on July 22, 1981.[6] Val James made his NHL debut for the Sabres during the 1981-82 NHL season, playing seven games.[7]

In 1983, while playing in the American Hockey League (AHL), under the direction of rookie coach Mike Keenan, Val scored the winning goal for the Rochester Americans in the Calder Cup.[8]

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.[9]

On the ice, James became revered for his fighting ability. Spirited bouts and victories over noted enforcers Terry O'Reilly and John Kordic were part of his record. One of the NHL's all-time top enforcers, Dave Brown, singled out James as one of the hardest punching players, and toughest opponents, he had ever fought.[10] After only 14 professional NHL hockey games a shoulder injury forced Val James to retire from the sport in 1988.[11] After retirement he taught hockey for 10 years before leaving sports altogether.[12]

Val James's autobiography Black Ice: The Val James Story, is scheduled by ECW Press for worldwide distribution to coincide with Black History Month in February 2015.[13]

References[edit]

  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. ^ http://www.hockey-reference.com/friv/birthplaces.cgi?country=US&province=&state=FL
  5. ^ Neveau, Jim. "O’Ree, James’ Contributions Worth Remembering on MLK Day". http://www.thehockeywriters.com. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Val James". Hockey Database.com. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Neveau, James. "O’Ree, James’ Contributions Worth Remembering on MLK Day". http://www.thehockeywriters.com. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  8. ^ Best, Neil (February 4, 2014). "Val James shares his stories on hockey and racism in new book 'Black Ice'" (Online). Newsday. Newsday. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  9. ^ James, Valmore; Gallagher, John (January 2015). Black Ice: The Val James Story (First ed.). Toronto Canada: ECW Press. p. page 203. ISBN 978-1-77041-201-9. 
  10. ^ James, Valmore; Gallagher, John (January 2015). Black Ice: The Val James Story (First ed.). Toronto, Canada: ECW Press. ISBN 978--1-77041-201-9. 
  11. ^ Borzi, Pat (February 3, 2015). "N.H.L. Trailblazer Finds Forgiveness in the Tip of a Pen". The NY Times Company. The NY Times. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  12. ^ Bozi, Pat (February 3, 2015). "N.H.L. Trailblazer Finds Forgiveness in the Tip of a Pen". The NY Times Company. The NY Times. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  13. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]