Gerry James was a fantastic junior player out of Winnipeg. He helped the Toronto Marlies win the Memorial Cup championship in 1955. He then stepped right out of junior to play three seasons as a depth winger with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And he did all of this after establishing himself a star player in the Canadian Football League.
Gerry James was the Canadian version of Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders in his day. He is actually better known for playing in the Canadian Football League. with his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1952 to 1963, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1964. He helped the Blue Bombers reach the Grey Cup Final on six occasions (1953, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962), and establish a dynasty with four championships in five seasons (1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962).
He actually started playing in the CFL at the age of seventeen - one of the youngest player in league history. In 1954 he became the very first recipient of the Most Outstanding Canadian award. He also held the single-season record for most rushing touchdowns (43) for almost half a century. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1981
A leg injury in a football match forced James to miss the entire 1958-59 NHL season, though he returned with the Leafs in 1959-60 for what proved to be his final season. By doing so he helped the Leafs reach the Stanley Cup final. Though Toronto would not win, James became the first and only athlete to compete for both the Grey Cup and the Stanley Cup in the same season.
He would continue to play and coach senior hockey off and on throughout the 1960s. He would also coach in Switzerland with HC Davos and returned to Canada to become a legendary junior coach in Saskatchewan.