Larry Kwong

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Larry Kwong
Larry Kwong - Vernon Hydrophones.png
Larry Kwong pictured with the Vernon Hydrophones in the 1938-39 season
Born (1923-06-17) June 17, 1923 (age 91)
Vernon, BC, CAN
Height 5 ft 6 in (168 cm)
Weight 150 lb (68 kg; 10 st 10 lb)
Position Right Wing
Shot Right
Played for New York Rangers
Playing career 1941–1959

Lawrence Kwong (born Eng Kai Geong; June 17, 1923), was the first Chinese Canadian and the first person of Asian ancestry to play in the National Hockey League. Of Cantonese extraction,[1] he was also the first NHL player from Vernon, British Columbia, and the Okanagan region. Born to immigrant grocer parents, Kwong played as a forward and was called the "China Clipper" (a name later used for CFL player Normie Kwong) and "King" Kwong.[2]

Playing career[edit]

Larry Kwong pictured with the Trail Smoke Eaters

Kwong powered the Vernon Hydrophones to the midget hockey championship of BC in 1939 and then to the provincial juvenile title in 1941.[3] As an 18-year-old, Kwong jumped the junior ranks to play senior hockey for the Trail Smoke Eaters, who had won the 1939 World Ice Hockey Championships. In Trail, he was denied a job working with his teammates at the smelter because of his Chinese heritage.[4] In 1944 Kwong was drafted into the Canadian Army. Instead of being deployed overseas, he was selected to join "Sugar" Jim Henry and Mac Colville on the Red Deer Wheelers of the Central Alberta Garrison Hockey League. The Wheelers defeated the Calgary Combines (starring two-time NHL scoring champion Sweeney Schriner) in the playoff semi-final, before falling to Calgary Currie Army (whose roster included Hart Trophy winners Max Bentley and Tommy Anderson) in the final series.[5]

After World War II Kwong returned to Trail and won the provincial senior hockey championship with the Smoke Eaters in 1946. In that BC Final series against the New Westminster Royals, Kwong led the Smokies in scoring (tied with Mike Buckna) and scored the Savage Cup-winning goal.[6] Later that year, Lester Patrick scouted Kwong and was impressed, signing him for the New York Rovers, a farm team of the New York Rangers.[7] Kwong scored a goal in his debut for the Rovers against the Boston Olympics in Boston on October 27, 1946.[8] At Madison Square Garden on November 17, 1946, Shavey Lee presented Kwong with the Keys to New York's Chinatown. Kwong went on to lead the New York Rovers in scoring in 1947–1948 with 86 points in 65 games.

Less than a year after Jackie Robinson shattered the baseball color line, Kwong broke the barrier in hockey.

On March 13, 1948, Kwong made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers, wearing number 11, against Maurice Richard and the Montreal Canadiens in the Montreal Forum. Kwong waited until late in the third period before seeing the ice for his only shift of the night. Playing only for about a minute, he tallied no points in what would be his only big-league game. The Rovers' top scorer had watched several other Rover forwards get called to the NHL ahead of him.[9] Demoted after a single minute, Kwong became convinced that he would not get an opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level with the Rangers. In the off-season, Kwong accepted a more lucrative offer to play for the Valleyfield Braves of the Quebec Senior Hockey League. Kwong went on to have a long career in senior leagues in Canada and the United States. Coached by Toe Blake, Kwong was named as an assistant captain of the Valleyfield Braves. In 1951 Kwong won the Vimy Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the QSHL. That year, he led the Valleyfield Braves to the league championship and then to the Alexander Cup, the Canadian major senior title. In the following QSHL season (1951–52), Kwong's 38 goals were topped only by Jean Béliveau's 45 tallies. In his nine-year tenure in the Quebec League, competing against future NHL All-Stars such as Béliveau, Jacques Plante, Dickie Moore, Gerry McNeil and Jean-Guy Talbot, Kwong averaged better than a point per game. Kwong also spent one season with the Nottingham Panthers in Britain, scoring 55 goals in 55 games, before moving to Switzerland where he led HC Ambrì-Piotta in scoring as player-coach.[10] With this coaching assignment, he became the first person of Chinese descent to coach a professional hockey team.[11] He later coached HC Lugano and HC Lausanne. Kwong also became a tennis coach in Switzerland.

Family life[edit]

Kwong was married to Audrey Craven (1929–1979) in Nottingham in 1964. The couple had one daughter, Kristina. In 1972 Kwong returned to Canada with his family to run Food-Vale Supermarket with his brother, Jack. In 1989 Kwong married Janine Boyer. He was widowed for a second time in 1999. Retired from the grocery business, he lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Honours[edit]

Kwong was presented Calgary's Asian Heritage Month Award in 2002. In 2008 Kwong was honoured by the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League in a pre-game ceremony, also receiving the Heritage Award from the Society of North American Hockey Historians and Researchers (SONAHHR).[12] That year he was also saluted by the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.[13] In 2010 Kwong received the Okanagan Hockey School's inaugural Pioneer Award.[14] Kwong's story is featured in the documentary film Lost Years: A People's Struggle for Justice (2011), written, directed and produced by Kenda Gee and Tom Radford.[15][16] On November 23, 2011, Kwong was inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in the Athlete category.[17] On September 19, 2013, Kwong became an honoured member of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.[18]

Career statistics[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1939–41 Vernon Hydrophones BCAHA
1941–42 Trail Smoke Eaters ABCHL 29 9 13 22 10 3 0 0 0 0
1942–43 Nanaimo Clippers VISHL 11 6 6 12 0 3 0 1 1 2
1943–44 Vancouver St. Regis NNDHL 17 10 6 16 0
1943–44 Red Deer Wheelers CAGHL 2 0 0 0 0 5 1 2 3 0
1944–45 Did not play
1945–46 Trail Smoke Eaters WKHL 19 12 8 20 12 5 6 0 6 8
1946–47 New York Rovers EAHL 47 19 18 37 15 9 7 3 10 0
1947–48 New York Rangers NHL 1 0 0 0 0
1947–48 New York Rovers EAHL 17 13 16 29 5
1947–48 New York Rovers QSHL 48 20 37 57 23 4 1 0 1 0
1948–49 Valleyfield Braves QSHL 63 37 47 84 8 3 1 0 1 7
1949–50 Valleyfield Braves QSHL 60 25 35 60 16 5 2 1 3 2
1950–51 Valleyfield Braves QSHL 60 34 51 85 35 16 1 12 13 2
1950–51 Valleyfield Braves Alx-Cup 12 6 9 15 4
1951–52 Valleyfield Braves QSHL 60 38 28 66 16 6 1 5 6 0
1952–53 Valleyfield Braves QSHL 56 10 22 32 6 3 0 2 2 0
1953–54 Valleyfield Braves QHL 68 24 25 49 17 7 3 3 6 2
1954–55 Valleyfield Braves QHL 50 24 30 54 8
1955–56 Trois-Rivieres Lions QHL 29 3 6 9 10
1955–56 Troy Bruins IHL 21 9 9 18 2 5 1 2 3 2
1956–57 Troy Bruins IHL 9 1 0 1 0
1956–57 Cornwall Chevies OHA Sr. A 33 14 15 29 22 6 5 1 6 0
1957–58 Nottingham Panthers BNL 31 39 15 54 6
1957–58 Nottingham Panthers Aut-Cup 24 16 9 25 4

References[edit]

  1. ^ NHL, "CBC targets Chinese hockey fans with Mandarin broadcasts of NHL playoffs", Canadian Press, 2008 April 20
  2. ^ "NY TIMES: A Hockey Pioneer’s Moment". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Canadian Press. "Eyes on Cup! Trail Moulding Mighty Puck Squad", The Leader-Post (Regina, SK), Nov. 11, 1941, p. 16.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of British Columbia. Ed. Daniel Francis. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing Ltd, 2000, p. 394. ISBN 1-55017-200-X.
  5. ^ "Currie Soldiers Win Puck Title", Edmonton Journal, March 13, 1944, p. 7.
  6. ^ Canadian Press. "Smokies Oust Coast Squad", The Leader-Post (Regina, SK), March 30, 1946, p. 17.
  7. ^ Canadian Press. "Larry Kwong Impresses Lester Patrick", The Calgary Herald, Sept. 19, 1946, p. 17.
  8. ^ Associated Press. "Olympics Beaten Out", The Lewiston Daily Sun, Oct. 28, 1946, p. 9.
  9. ^ Canadian Press. "American Puck Teams Compete in Two Loops", The Calgary Herald, Jan. 6, 1948, p. 13.
  10. ^ Hockey Club Ambrì-Piotta Official Website. "Storia del Club".
  11. ^ Calgary Herald, "Kwong (Puck) Moves Talents To Switzerland", Johnny Hopkins, 2 October 1958, pp.50
  12. ^ SONAHHR Official Website. "Larry Kwong, First Asian in NHL, Awarded SONAHHR Heritage Award".
  13. ^ Davis, David (28 February 2013). "Larry Kwong remembers being the first Chinese player in the NHL". Toronto Star. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Okanagan Hockey School Official Website. "Larry Kwong Receives First Annual Pioneer Award".
  15. ^ "Hockey legend immortalized in film". Vernon Morning Star, Sept. 18, 2011
  16. ^ "As Boston Bruins Takes 2:1 Stanley Cup Finals Lead, Larry Kwong Celebrates 90th Birthday". bostonese English-Chinese Online Journal. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  17. ^ "Athletes score hall of fame honour". Vernon Morning Star, Nov. 27, 2011, p. A1
  18. ^ "Crowning B.C. sports hall glory for King Kwong". The Vancouver Sun, Sept. 20, 2013

Bibliography[edit]

  • Lost Years Official Website (Episode 1): http://www.lostyears.ca/episode-one.html
  • Barman, Jean. The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (Third Edition). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8020-9495-7.
  • Greig, Murray. Trail on Ice: A Century of Hockey in the Home of Champions. Trail: City of Trail Archives, 1999. ISBN 0-9690305-3-3.
  • Ma, Adrian. How the Chinese Created Canada. Dragon Hill Publishing Ltd., 2010. ISBN 978-1-896124-19-3.
  • McKinley, Michael. Hockey: A People's History. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7710-5769-4.
  • Mortillaro, Nicole. Hockey Trailblazers. Toronto: Scholastic Canada Ltd, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4431-0469-2.
  • Poulton, J. Alexander. A History of Hockey in Canada. OverTime Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-897277-56-0.
  • Wong, David H.T. Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012. ISBN 9781551524764.

See also[edit]

  • Willie O'Ree, first black player in the NHL, a decade after Larry Kwong broke the colour barrier