Hauppauge’s Val James, the first Black American to play in NHL, is now a Suffolk Sports HOFer


Hauppauge native and hockey trailblazer Val James is set to become one of the newest members of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame.

The left-winger, well-known in history as becoming the first Black American to play in the NHL, learned he will be inducted into this year’s hall of fame class.

He’s among eight individual athletes from Suffolk County (full list below) that were selected for the honor.

“There’s no greater honor than inducting these talented and influential people,” said Chris R. Vaccaro, executive director of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. “From the pros to high school we have a diverse class of individuals who left their mark on the local and national sports landscape.”

James, who played in the NHL from 1978–1988, was drafted by the Detriot Red Wings and played for Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.

He honed his skills as a skater at Long Island Area in Commack where his dad worked, preparing him for his career as a pro.

James was known for his strong punching ability as an enforcer. Check out a video of his fighting ability below:

Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, James and his fellow inductees may have to wait to be enshrined in person. An induction ceremony is in the works for May 12 but will most likely be held virtually, says Vaccaro.

The Hall of Fame Class of 2020 induction ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic, but Vaccaro said both classes will be honored at the same time.

“The health and safety of our inductees and their friends and family is our top priority,” said Vaccaro. “We will not postpone the ceremony for another year and will likely have something virtual in the spring.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s important that we honor these deserving individuals in a timely manner, while staying safe.”

the inductees

  • Karen Ferguson-Dayes: Current women’s soccer coach at the University of Louisville and former U.S. Women’s National Team player, who played at Sachem
  • Jason Fraser: Amityville High and Villanova University hoops star who also coached with the Phoenix Suns of the NBA
  • Randy Givens: Amityville High and Florida State University track star who is an Olympian and an NCAA champion
  • Tony Guido: Rocky Point, NY native, All-American and All-Ivy lacrosse player at Yale
  • Val James: Hauppauge, NY native that became the first black American in the NHL, playing for the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Rohan Murphy: East Islip, NY native, a decorated wrestler in high school and Penn State, record-setting American Paralympian and motivational speaker
  • John Paci: Huntington, NY native who was an All-Big Ten quarterback at Indiana and played for the New York Jets and Washington Redskins
  • Joe Reilly: Longwood track & field coach and one of the winningest coaches in New York State history
  • Don Webster: Former Executive Director of Section XI and athletic director at Longwood and Ward Melville

Top: Val James during his playing days with the Toronto Maple Leafs (courtesy photo).

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