Canadian women's hockey pioneerAngela Jameshas broken the gender barrier in
the IIHF Hall of Fame players category along with former teammate Geraldine Heaney and American Cammi Granato.

The three will be the first women inducted into the international hockey shrine, the Zurich-based International Ice Hockey Federationannounced Thursday.

"I'm certainly delighted, that's for sure," said James. "Kudos go to the IIHF for recognizing the women's game."

Mario Lemieux, Igor Larionov, Frenchman Philippe Bozon and builder Art Berglund, the Canadian-born manager of U.S. national teams for many years, also will be inducted.

"I am immensely happy that we have reached the phase in hockey history when we rightfully can induct women to the players category," IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement. "Almost two decades have passed since we started with the IIHF world women's championship and the first pioneers have retired, which means that
the selection committee could, with perspective, evaluate their contributions to the game.

"This was a very important decision in the history of the IIHF and it feels very good that this coincides with the 100-year anniversary of the IIHF and that this history-making group will be inducted in Quebec City, Canada, the country that has led the development of women's hockey."

James grew up in Toronto playing ball hockey with boys.

"That was the thing to do in the neighbourhood when we were kids," she said. "Females stood in the nets and took balls off the forehead.

"We played from morning till night, whether it be ball or ice hockey."

James played for Canada in the first four officially-sanctioned IIHF women's world championships, starting with the inaugural tournament in 1990 in Ottawa, when she scored 11 goals in five games. It is one of her most vivid memories.

"The fan support we got was amazing," she recalled. "We'd never played in front of large crowds like that."

In all, she scored 22 goals in 20 world championship games.

"The passion I had for it, the love of it," she replied when asked why she became such a good player. "That's all we did.

"There aren't many people you sit down having a drink with who are involved in the sport and who don't love it passionately."

James earned eight MVP awards in Canadian women's championship play and was an inspiration for the next generation of Canadian players.

She has three children and Christian, her eight-year-old, was excited when told she's going to be honoured.

"He's already asking me if he can go to the induction," she said.

James, who turns 43 on Saturday, is the owner of Breakaway Adult Hockey School and is the recreation co-ordinator at Toronto's Seneca College. She had a rec league game to play Thursday night.

Heaney was born in Northern Ireland and began playing hockey at age 13 after her family moved to Toronto. She was the first woman in the world to win seven consecutive IIHF world championships, capping her playing career with a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics. She also won Winter Games silver in 1998.

Heaney played a record 125 games for Canada, and her 27 goals and 66 assists made her the all-time leader in scoring by a Canadian defenceman. She is 40 now and head coach of the women's team at the University of Waterloo.

Granato, 36, began playing hockey with her siblings, including big brother Tony, who went on to an NHL career.

Granato evolved into the most well-known female hockey player in the United States. She played in every IIHF world women's championships and Olympics from the start in 1990 until 2005, which was the year she led the U.S. to its first world title and denied Canada a ninth in a row.

As captain, she led the U.S. to gold in 1998 when women's hockey was an official Olympic sport for the first time. She was honoured with the NHL's Lester Patrick Award in 2007 for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

Lemieux was captain of Canada's victorious 2002 Olympic an2004 World Cup of Hockey teams. He first represented Canada at the 1983 world junior tournament and at age 19 he skated in the 1985 world tournament. It was in the 1987 Canada Cup tournament, during which he amassed 18 points in nine games, that he was recognized as a dominant offensive force in the sport.

Lemieux, 42, the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto after a stellar NHL career in which he amassed 1,723 points. He helped Pittsburgh win two championships and got the MVP nod both times. He won six scoring titles, was named MVP three times, was picked by his
peers as outstanding player four times.

Larionov was on the Soviets' victoriousCanada Cup team in 1981, won Olympic gold in 1984 and 1988 and was in on four IIHF world championships. He played in the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cup tournaments and at age 41 captained Russia at the 2002 Olympics. He was a member of eight Soviet-champion Red Army teams, and he helped the Detroit Red Wings win three NHL championships.

Larionov, 47, is one of 19 members of the Triple Gold Club for players who have one Olympic gold, world championship gold and the Stanley Cup.

Bozon, 41, a youth hockey coach in Geneva now, is the best-known player in French hockey history. He played in four Olympic tournaments and in 12 world championships. He played three QMJHL seasons with the St-Jean Beavers before becoming the first Frenchman to play in the NHL. He got into 163 games with St. Louis from 1992 to 1995.

Berglund, 67, was born in Fort Francis, Ont., but moved permanently to the United States after attending Colorado College.

He was on the administrative staff of more than 30 U.S. teams in tournaments around the world including the Olympics. He received the Lester Patrick Award in 1992. He retired from his job at USA Hockey in 2005 but continues to serve as a consultant.

The IIHF Hall of Fame was introduced in 1997 and now has 150 inductees from 22 countries.