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B.C. man played for Stanley Cup, Grey Cup in same year: Gerry James dead at 89

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Canadian sporting legend Gerry James has died at the age of 89.

A resident of Nanoose Bay near Nanaimo was known for his athletic excellence in football and hockey and was the only person to play in the CFL’s Grey Cup and NHL’s Stanley Cup final in the same season. He died Feb. 13 at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Good friend John Ogle was sad to hear of James’s passing.

“I met him when I interviewed him for a feature on Shaw Cable years ago when he first showed up here,” said Ogle, a sports trivia expert. “I used to watch him play for the Toronto Marlies in the ’50s. We became good friends with his wife Marg. He is quite the story. He is probably the greatest athlete that Canada has ever had in the ’50s and early ’60s.”

In the book Kid Dynamite — The Gerry James Story, author Ron Smith from Nanoose Bay indicated James joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the age of 17 and became not only the youngest athlete to play in the CFL but was also one of the toughest athletes of his time.

Among the highlights of James’s achievements in gridiron sport include four Grey Cup championships in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962, two scoring titles, and was twice presented the Schenley Award as the top Canadian player in the CFL in 1954 and 1957. At one time, he held 18 CFL records as a running back and twice rushed for over 1000 yards. He still holds the record for the most post-season games at 37.

James is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame along with his father “Dynamite” Eddie James. They are the only father and son named to the HOF.

In 1954, James was called up from junior to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won a Memorial Cup with the Toronto Marlies in 1955. 

James played in the Stanley Cup final with Leafs against Montreal Canadiens in 1960. He was member of the noted “Puke Line” for Toronto in 1959-60, alongside Duke Edmundson and Johnny Wilson. He played with Frank Mahovlich, Tim Horton, Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Alan Stanley and Johnny Bower among others and was coached by Howie Meeker.

The Winnipeg Football Club was also saddened to learn of James’s passing.

“Gerry James was a two-sport star during his playing days and his skill, his grit and his toughness were trademarks of those legendary Bud Grant-coached teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s,” said Wade Miller, WFC president and CEO on its web page.

Ogle said that James was very involved in the community. He volunteered with the Mount Arrowsmith Salvation Army, helping in the soup kitchen as well as manning the kettles at the PetroCan gas station in Nanoose Bay every Christmas. He was also a coach of the Special Olympics Oceanside.

“He was a good man,” said Ogle. “He was tough athlete (and) a nice person.”

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