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Amateur sportsAngela James: Hockey's Hall of Fame Pioneer

Posted: Thursday, November 4, 2010 | 10:51 AM

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Each year the Hockey Hall of Fame inducts two kinds of people, players and builders.

On Monday as two women are welcomed, the old boys club will recognize pioneers of the game, Angela James of Canada and American Cammi Granato. 

james-angela-1990-cp-584.jpgCanada's Angela James knocks Germany's Elvira Saager during the women's world hockey championship in Ottawa on March 21, 1990. James will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 8. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Each year the Hockey Hall of Fame inducts two kinds of people, players and builders.

On Monday as two women are welcomed, the old boys club will recognize pioneers of the game, Angela James of Canada and American Cammi Granato. 

James warrants the closest look.

The winner of four world championships including the first in 1990 where she scored 11 goals in five games and was a tournament all-star, James revelled in her life as a player.

"It meant the world to me," she said of that inaugural world championship in Ottawa. "We never had anything like it prior to that.  All I knew how to do was play hockey and that's all I wanted to do."

James grew up in Toronto's Flemingdon Park where drugs and crime were rampant. She came from a poor family with a single mom, Donna Baratto, who sacrificed everything to give her daughter a chance.

"We didn't have a car or a lot of money or anything like that, " she said. "But we did have a ton of love in our house.  My mom never let the children go without."

Most dominant player of her time

granto-cammi-getty-220.jpg

James was a big, tough, player who scored at will. She dominated for a generation playing for the Toronto Aeros and was feared by her opponents. But James was left off the Canadian roster for the Nagano Olympics where women's hockey made its debut. A personality conflict with head coach Shannon Miller spelled the end of her Olympic dream.

"It was all I had worked for since the announcement in 1992 that women's hockey would be an Olympic sport," James said. "Based on past performance, present performance and everything else I brought to that program, I should have been there."

Minus James, Canada went on to lose the gold medal to the United States, a team led by Granato. Even the great American star realized it was James who was the trailblazer for women's hockey.

"We are pioneers it's true," Granato said of the 1998 gold medallists from the U.S. "But players like Angela James from Canada were around and dominating before my group ever arrived. They paved the way and we came in at the right time."

When Angela James goes into the Hockey Hall that pioneering spirit will be celebrated at long last.

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