Lifetime award for hockey great Angela James

by Ron Fanfair
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Angela James


By Ron Fanfair
In her acceptance speech after joining Cammi Granato as the first women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, Angela James paid tribute to her single mom who registered her in minor boys’ hockey at age eight.
“You always found a way to allow me to play, no matter what or where,” she told her while choking back tears. “You always found a way to get there.”
Though Donna Baratto passed away in 2020, she was very much in her daughter’s thoughts when she received the Carnegie Initiative (CI) Lifetime Achievement Award.
Asked if given the opportunity to dedicate the prestigious honour to someone, James did not hesitate to say it would be her mom.
“She was my rock,” the only Black Canadian hockey captain said. “She never held back anything. I am a little bit more politically correct, but not her. I lost mom, but I gained another one right here in this lovely woman.”
CI co-chair Bernice Carnegie made the presentation on January 30 during the third annual CI Summit.
“Angela has influenced and inspired a generation of young hockey players,” she said. “She has made the culture of hockey better and her impact is enormous.”
James is the third CI Lifetime Achievement Award winner after Bob Dawson who was a member of the first all-Black line in Canadian university hockey in 1970 at Saint Mary’s University and Willie O’Ree who broke the sport’s colour barrier in January 1958 with the Boston Bruins.
“When you say ‘Lifetime’, it means I am old for sure,” she said. “The honour recognizes so much that I have done for the game, whether it be through parenting, coaching, refereeing and administration. To be able to do what I love to do and be recognized is not my intention. Herb Carnegie, however, was special and the legacy he has left is immense. The Carnegie Initiative commitment to make the sport more inclusive resonates with me and I am just happy to be part of this ongoing work.”
Growing up in Flemingdon Park that is one of the city’s priority neighbourhoods, James started skating on the nearby frozen hydro field and later played shinny and ball hockey with neighbourhood boys in the mid-1960s.
Considered the first woman hockey superstar, she dominated the sport at the Ontario College Athletics Association level where she was a three-time scoring champion and Most Valuable Player. As a defender, she scored 50 goals for Seneca College in the 1984-95 season.
James was the leading scorer eight seasons and the MVP winner six times in the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League and a four-time women’s world championship gold medallist.
At the inaugural World Championship in 1990, she netted 11 goals in five contests. Overall, she registered 34 points in 20 games in the first four tournaments.
Five years ago, James retired from Seneca College after 35 years working in the athletic department. A two-time Seneca Female Athlete of the Year, her number eight was retired when she graduated. She was also inducted into their Hall of Fame and recognized with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.
In 2008, the Angela James Bowl was created to honour the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s top goal scorer. A year later, Flemingdon Park Arena where she learned to skate and hone her skills, was renamed the Angela James Arena.
She is one of two Black women to have North American hockey arenas named after them. The Laura Sims Skatehouse, opened in 1985, is named after the late founder of a minority youth hockey program in Philadelphia.
James was a co-owner and general manager of the Toronto Six women’s team that won the Isobel Cup in 2023.

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