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
Vernon, British Columbia, Canada
Died March 15, 2018(2018-03-15) (aged 94)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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 (simplified Chinese: 吴启光; traditional Chinese: 吳啟光; pinyin: Wú Qǐguāng) June 17, 1923 – March 15, 2018) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward and businessman. He is known as the first person of Asian ancestry to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), and the first player to break hockey's color barrier.[1] Of Cantonese extraction,[2] he was also the first NHL player from Vernon, British Columbia, and the Okanagan region. Kwong's nicknames included the "China Clipper" (a name later used for CFL player Normie Kwong) and "King Kwong".[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] Kwong scored a goal in his debut for the Rovers against the Boston Olympics in Boston on October 27, 1946.[9] 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.[10] 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.

A pioneer and ambassador for the game of hockey, Kwong accepted an offer to play and coach hockey in England and, later, in Lausanne, Switzerland, before it even became fashionable to play in Europe. His expected year there turned into a stay of fifteen. "I went there to coach ice hockey and then after six years of coaching, I decided to start teaching tennis as a tennis pro."[1] Kwong 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.[11] With this coaching assignment, he became the first person of Chinese descent to coach a professional hockey team.[12] He later coached HC Lugano and HC Lausanne. Kwong also became a tennis coach in Switzerland.

Personal 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 (Kwong Hing Lung) 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 lived in Calgary, Alberta.

Kwong died March 15, 2018 in Calgary.[1][13][14] He was survived by his daughter, Kristina (Dean) Heintz; granddaughters, Samantha and Madison; sisters, Betty Chan and Ina Ng; sisters-in-law, Janet, Irene, and Georgina; and numerous nieces and nephews.[15]


Kwong was presented Calgary's Asian Heritage Month Award in 2002. In 2009 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 Historians and Researchers (SONAHR).[16] That year he was also saluted by the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.[17] In 2010 Kwong received the Okanagan Hockey Group's inaugural Pioneer Award.[18] 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.[19][20] In 2014, The Shift: The Story of the China Clipper, a documentary by Chester Sit, Wes Miron and Tracy Nagai, had its theatrical premiere in Vernon, BC.[21] On November 23, 2011, Kwong was inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in the Athlete category.[22] On September 19, 2013, Kwong became an honoured member of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.[23] He was enshrined in the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame on July 23, 2016.[24] King Kwong: Larry Kwong, the China Clipper who Broke the NHL Colour Barrier, a biography by Paula Johanson, was published in 2015.[25] Kwong's game-worn 1942–43 Nanaimo Clippers sweater hangs in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a part of its exhibit The Changing Face of Hockey – Diversity in Our Game. [26]

Career statistics[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1938–41 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ward, Rachel (19 March 2018). "NHL trailblazer Larry Kwong dies at 94". CBC News. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  2. ^ NHL, "CBC targets Chinese hockey fans with Mandarin broadcasts of NHL playoffs", Canadian Press, 2008 April 20
  3. ^ David, David (February 20, 2013). "A Hockey Pioneer's Moment". New York Times. p. B11. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Eyes on Cup! Trail Moulding Mighty Puck Squad". The Leader-Post (Regina, SK). November 11, 1941. p. 16.
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of British Columbia. Ed. Daniel Francis. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing Ltd, 2000, p. 394. ISBN 1-55017-200-X.
  6. ^ "Currie Soldiers Win Puck Title", Edmonton Journal, March 13, 1944, p. 7.
  7. ^ Canadian Press. "Smokies Oust Coast Squad", The Leader-Post (Regina, SK), March 30, 1946, p. 17.
  8. ^ "Larry Kwong Impresses Lester Patrick". The Calgary Herald. September 19, 1946. p. 17.
  9. ^ "Olympics Beaten Out". The Lewiston Daily Sun. Associated Press. October 28, 1946. p. 9.
  10. ^ Canadian Press. "American Puck Teams Compete in Two Loops", The Calgary Herald, January 6, 1948, p. 13.
  11. ^ Hockey Club Ambrì-Piotta Official Website. "Storia del Club". Archived 2010-11-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Hopkins, Johnny (2 October 1958). "Kwong (Puck) Moves Talents To Switzerland". Calgary Herald. p. 50.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Goldstein, Larry (March 20, 2018). "Larry Kwong, 94, Dies; N.H.L.'s First Player of Asian Descent". New York Times. p. B19. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  15. ^
  16. ^ SONAHHR Official Website. "Larry Kwong, First Asian in NHL, Awarded SONAHHR Heritage Award".
  17. ^ Davis, David (28 February 2013). "Larry Kwong remembers being the first Chinese player in the NHL". Toronto Star. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  18. ^ Okanagan Hockey Group Official Website. "Larry Kwong Receives First Annual Pioneer Award". Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "Hockey legend immortalized in film" (PDF). Vernon Morning Star. September 18, 2011.
  20. ^ "As Boston Bruins Takes 2:1 Stanley Cup Finals Lead, Larry Kwong Celebrates 90th Birthday". bostonese English-Chinese Online Journal. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  21. ^ "Film commemorates Larry Kwong's historic moment". Vernon Morning Star. August 13, 2014.
  22. ^ "Athletes score hall of fame honour". Vernon Morning Star. November 27, 2011. p. A1.
  23. ^ "Crowning B.C. sports hall glory for King Kwong". The Vancouver Sun. September 20, 2013.
  24. ^ Hockey Alberta Foundation Website."Bruins legend Bucyk highlights 2016 AHHF induction class".
  25. ^ "First China Clipper was hockey phenom from Vernon". The Vancouver Sun. August 4, 2015.
  26. ^ Greater Toronto Hockey League Website. "Diversity in our game".


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