Val Edwin James (born February 14, 1957) is an American former professional ice hockey left winger, as well as defenseman, who played two seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
February 14, 1957|
Ocala, Florida, U.S.
|Height||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)|
|Weight||205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)|
Toronto Maple Leafs
184th overall, 1977|
Detroit Red Wings
James was born in Ocala, Florida and raised in Hauppauge, on Long Island, New York. He was one of six children. 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. James was the first black American to play in the NHL when he debuted with the Sabres. While James was the first black American to play in the NHL, he was not the first to be exclusively trained in the country; that milestone did not occur until 1996, when Mike Grier made his NHL debut. James was the first native-born Floridian to play in the NHL.
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. 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. Val James made his NHL debut for the Sabres during the 1981–82 NHL season, playing seven games.
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 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. After only 14 professional NHL hockey games a shoulder injury forced Val James to retire from the sport in 1988. After retirement he taught hockey for 10 years before leaving sports altogether.
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. In January 2017 ECW Press re-released the book in paperback format to coincide with Black History Month.
- Moriarity, Tim (March 26, 1982). "Sabres Taking a Look at a LI'er". Newsday.
- Frank, Mark (December 1, 1981). "Popular Val James Works to Fulfill a Dream". UPI.
- "Val Edwin James". Legends of Hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
- Allen, Kevin (January 14, 2008). "Willie O'Ree still blazing way in NHL 50 years later". USA Today. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
- Neveau, Jim. "O'Ree, James' Contributions Worth Remembering on MLK Day". www.thehockeywriters.com. Retrieved December 23, 2014.
- "Val James". Hockey Database.com. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
- Neveau, James. "O'Ree, James' Contributions Worth Remembering on MLK Day". www.thehockeywriters.com. Retrieved December 23, 2014.
- Best, Neil (February 4, 2014). "Val James shares his stories on hockey and racism in new book 'Black Ice'" (Online). Newsday. Newsday. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- James, Valmore; Gallagher, John (January 2015). Black Ice: The Val James Story (First ed.). Toronto Canada: ECW Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-77041-201-9.
- James, Valmore; Gallagher, John (January 2015). Black Ice: The Val James Story (First ed.). Toronto, Canada: ECW Press. ISBN 978--1-77041-201-9.
- Borzi, Pat (February 3, 2015). "N.H.L. Trailblazer Finds Forgiveness in the Tip of a Pen". The New Yorkj Times Company. The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- Bozi, Pat (February 3, 2015). "N.H.L. Trailblazer Finds Forgiveness in the Tip of a Pen". The New York Times Company. The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- 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 December 19, 2014.
- "Black Ice: The Val James Story". ECW Press Website. ECW Press. Retrieved December 26, 2017.