Angela James just became the first female to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. James, a pioneer of the women's hockey movement in Canada, was called the "Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey" by Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson in an interview with NHL.com tonight. She was a fearless power forward.
James is already a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame and the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. Tonight, she became a member of an exclusive club that used to be only for men.
Here are excerpts of what James said in her induction speech moments ago:
"Well, you know, this has been a long time coming and I need to turn around and look at this."
At that point James turned around, looked at her name in lights and raised her arms before turning back and saying, "OK, here goes."
"When I received the call from the Hockey Hall of Fame committee I knew that this was something very special. I was overwhelmed with excitement emotion, but the warmth and the welcome by the Hall, the Hall of Fame committee, the staff, it was just a very familiar feeling to me and that was a feeling of family. I believe this is what the Hall represents -- unbelievable people, great hockey players and history. They gave me a feeling like I was adopted into a new family, except this family was all boys and it needed some girls. So, here we are today.
"Today is a day of celebration. It's a day about our great game. I'm very honored to have with me my family. My brother Bobby, Larry, who couldn't make it tonight from Vancouver. Neil, my sister Cindy, who I had to fight off the TV just so I could watch Hockey Night in Canada. My sister Kim, who dragged my bag…my father, no matter what, if I ever called you you'd be there. My mom, I love you mom. You always found a way to allow me to play. No matter what or where you were, we always found a way to get there. My partner for 16 years, Angela, and our three children: Christian, Michael and Toni, who is sleeping. These are the ones who made the sacrifices night after night to allow me to go out and play the game. I know you might not understand now, Michael, Christian and Toni, but tonight your mom has climbed a very tall mountain. I love you all very much.
"I used to run hockey schools back in the days and I would always arrange for a visit here to the Hockey Hall of Fame for different groups and would always be in amazement about the class of athletes and read all about the great legends inducted. If you would have ever asked me if I would be standing here today, not in a lifetime.
"When I was a kid I didn't think hockey was just for boys. I thought everyone played hockey, because that's what we did as kids. Hockey is what I did and hockey is what I still do today.
"There have been many, many people that have guided me, helped me and coached me both as a player and as a person. Without those people I would not be able to complete this journey.
"I loved competing for my country. I loved competing for my province. I enjoyed the rivalries with Team USA and Team Finland, and playing against Cammi Granato and Cindy Curley in the early days, especially that backdoor play that Cammi seemed to be able to sit there and have a cup of coffee before she put one by us many, many times.
"I guess as I stand here on this historic day for women's hockey, I reflect on the past months and what this induction has meant to myself, my family, friends and so many women and girls playing the great game of hockey. I can only say I feel very privileged to be one of the first females to lead us into the Hall of Fame. The time is right, we are here, we do exist. Thank you very much."