By Fred Wallace
Val James First African American To Play in the NHL
Hi, this is Fred Wallace with " Off the Wire ".
Do you remember the teams and players from your youth ?
For me, it was the Midland Flyers. First the Intermediate Flyers and then, commencing in 1972, the Junior B Flyers.
Without question, the most interesting player for the Junior B Flyers was Val James.
James was an American from Long Island, New York, which was rare enough for a Jr B player in the old Central Ontario League.
Val James was also black, and believe me, in a relatively small community of 10,000 people, he stood out.
For 2 years, Val James played for the Flyers, first on defence where he struggled, then at forward in his second year where he started to flourish.
I don't recall him being in an on-ice fight when I was at the Midland Gardens, and trust me there were 3 or 4 per night, but somewhere between Midland and pro hockey, Val James became gifted with the dukes.
He recounts all of this in his book " Black Ice " which is both an enjoyable and bothersome read.
As much as Val James was a " fighter " in hockey, his biggest fights were against racial prejudice throughout North America's hockey hotbeds from Midland, Ontario to the National Hockey League.
I'm Fred Wallace