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Bench Talk / Off The Wire

Black Ice


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

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