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Angela James was a trailblazer on the ice, a fierce competitor who piloted Canada’s national women’s hockey team to four world championships. James blazed another trail Tuesday when she and Cammi Granato, who captained the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team’s gold medal squad in 1998, became the first women inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

James, 45, is the first black woman voted into the hall and the second black player ever to receive the honor. She joins Grant Fuhr, a black five-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender with the Edmonton Oilers, who entered the Hall in 2003. She will be formally inducted into the Hall, located in Toronto, in November.

“On behalf of everyone in women’s hockey, I am truly honored,” James said Tuesday. “As a kid, I went to the Hall and was in awe of those who had been inducted. I am delighted to be able to join them.”

James was dubbed “the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey” in Canada and is regarded as one of the first superstars of modern women’s hockey. She had a distinguished playing career at Toronto’s Seneca College – where she currently works as a sports co-coordinator – leading her team to several championships. The school retired her number 8 jersey.

She moved on to the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association in the late 1970s, where she led her  in scoring in eight seasons and was named its most valuable player in six seasons. In 1990, she was selected to the Canadian national team for the inaugural Women’s Champion in Ottawa. There, she powered the team to a gold medal by scoring a tournament-leading 11 goals in five games.

James was the driving force in leading the Canadian women to more gold at championships in Tampere, Finland in 1992, in Lake Placid in 1994 and in Kitchener, Ontario in 1997. She also powered Team Canada to gold medals in the Three Nations Cup tournaments in 1996 and 1999.

In all, James was a medalist in 12 national championships and won four world championships. She was named MVP at eight Canadian championships, scored 34 points in 20 games over the first four world championships in 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1997. She is the only black Canadian to captain her country’s national hockey team.

“Back in the days when we wore pink uniforms, we did what it took to get our game on the map,” James told the Canadian Press. “We didn’t care if we were wearing polka-dots, we just wanted to play.”

For all her goals, medals, and awards, James never played in the Winter Olympics. In a controversial move, she was left off the women’s hockey team.

“I don’t look at this as retribution,” James told The New York Times of her induction and the 1998 Olympic slight. “I look at this as a great day for women’s hockey.”

Her Olympic exclusion – which many said was like keeping legendary New York Rangers team Captain Mark Messier of the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team – didn’t stop the accolades from coming.

She received Hockey Canada’s Female Breakthrough Award in 2005, was inducted into the Black Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

Two years later, she, Granato, and Geraldine Heaney became the first women inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. Last year, James was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

She is one of only two black women known to have North American ice rinks named after them. The Angela James Arena is in Toronto. The Laura Sims Skatehouse, named after the late founder of a minority youth hockey program, is in …..

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