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Angela James: Canadian lesbian—and hockey legend
by Ross Forman
2010-12-15

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Angela James is, to some, just the senior sports coordinator at Seneca College in Toronto. In fact, some of those who just know James as the Seneca employee approached her in mid-November and asked about her hockey background.

They asked, "How come you didn't tell me that you played hockey for so long and were such a star?"

It was modesty, you see. However, James certainly was the real deal on the ice.

James was, starting in the late 1970s, a goal-scoring machine in Canadian women's hockey, though she didn't truly gain national fame until the inaugural Women's World Championship in 1990, held in Ottawa, Ontario.

James ultimately led Canada to four world titles.

James, 45, also played forward in the Central Ontario Women's Hockey League (now known as the National Women's Hockey League).

James scored 34 points (22 goals, 12 assists) in 20 games over four women's world championships, including 11 goals in five games in the inaugural World Women's Championships in 1990.

In 2008, James, along with Chicago-area native Cammi Granato and Canadian Geraldine Heaney, became the first women inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hockey Hall of Fame.

And, on Nov. 8, James and Granato were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, the first women ever inducted.

James is the daughter of a Black father and white mother; she is the only African-Canadian to captain a national hockey team—and she is an open lesbian, whose partner of 16 years is Angela McDonald.

And James saluted and thanked McDonald during her November speech at the Hall of Fame in Toronto.

"The actual induction into the Hall of Fame was out of this world, a lot of fun," said James, who has been receiving congratulatory calls and e-mails from literally around the world. "To be on the Wall of Fame with the greats of all time, I had the feeling of, 'Is this really happening?!' It's hard to absorb and understand."

James and Granato were joined in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2010 by 600-goal scorer Dino Ciccarelli and builders Jim Devellano and Doc Seaman, yet the two women certainly made this year's class historic.

James was a trailblazer, period.

"Cammi and I pushed to elevate the women's game on the national level," James said. "My thing always was hockey, be it playing for my club teams, or my providences, or my country. It's so remarkable to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, so everyone now knows what I did, what I achieved.

"Being a trailblazer is remarkable. And hopefully I can help the hopes and dreams of other young girls in the game.

"I think this [honor] comes with a responsibility that you send the right message, and continue to help people develop—through the sport or in the classroom. That has always been the case for me, but elevated since [the induction]."

James said that by thanking her partner in her Hall of Fames speech, it attracted the eyes and ears of many within the LGBT community, though that was not her intention.

"If someone wants something to do with the game, I'm there more than for one specific group or cause; I'm not close-minded to any [cause]," she said. "Anyone who knew one thing about me knew that I had a partner and children for the last 12 years.

"I feel sorry for athletes who feel that they cannot be themselves and express who they are, and express any open feelings toward their partner. I'd love to see people just be who they are, whether an athlete, politician, doctor, or anyone who is in the public-eye."

James and McDonald have been together for 16 years—and James has three children: Christian, 11; Toni, 5; and Michael, 5.

"I enjoy myself in and around the [LGBT] community, but I'm not an activist who's going out there, screaming and shouting for [LGBT] rights. I do it, but from the inside, not the outside," James said.

James was born in Toronto and attended Seneca College, where she won numerous titles in ice hockey and softball and had her jersey (No. 8) retired.

In 2008, the Angela James Bowl was created in her honor, awarded annually to the top scorer in the Canadian Women's Hockey League.


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