Asian Heritage Month: Hockey Pioneer Larry Kwong


Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 — 12:01pm PST
Comments 4

It’s no secret that we have a strong and proud Asian Heritage in Vancouver, which is one of the reasons why May has been named Asian Heritage Month.

This acknowledges the long and rich history of Asian Canadians and their contributions to Canada. Canada’s cultural diversity strengthens the country socially, politically and economically in innumerable ways. Asian Heritage Month is an ideal occasion for all to celebrate the beauty and wisdom of various Asian cultures. Canadians are invited to take part in the festivities that commemorate the legacy of Asian Canadians and their many contributions which have helped Canada to become the multicultural and diverse nation it is today. [City of Vancouver]

Two years ago John and I met David Suzuki during the ExplorASIAN festivities and I’ll be posting a bit more about upcoming events around town.

Hockey Pioneer Larry Kwong

The first installment of this month’s series (even though it’s still only April 30th) comes from a link sent to me by our globe-trotting friend Henry Lee. It’s about the first Chinese-Canadian to play in the NHL: Larry Kwong.

Born in Vernon, BC, Kwong played for the Trail Smoke Eaters then when noticed by NHL scouts touring BC in the mid 1940s he was picked up by the New York Rovers.

Seizing the opportunity to play in New York, Kwong registered 19 goals and 37 points in 47 games with the Rovers in 1946-47. In the process, he helped the team nicknamed the Red Shirts win its first Eastern Hockey League title since the pre-World War II era…

…Kwong had been dominating with the Rovers that season and was averaging well over a point per game. This had already made him a popular figure among New York’s Chinese community and his call-up to the NHL made headlines, particularly in Western Canada where he was already something of a folk hero…

…Kwong would play his only game for a Rangers team that barely qualified for the 1948 Stanley Cup playoffs against an even weaker team at the Montreal Forum… …Kwong’s moment on the ice was brief and fleeting — not much longer than one minute — but it was also historic and remains noteworthy 60 years later. [New York Rangers Website]

As much as I’ve never liked the Rangers (mostly since 1994), this story reminds me of Moonlight Graham. Larry Kwong opened the door for countless players of Asian decent (and of any other ethnic background, really) and is remembered to this day as a valuable member of the Rangers alumni.

“His career might have lasted for only a New York minute, but Larry Kwong’s role in hockey history will never be forgotten.”

Update August 2010: Larry Kwong was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame this summer. I just found a Globe & Mail article via Gung Haggis Fat Choy.

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4 comments

  1. fotoeins says:

    Hey, we all know that `48 to `94 was a long intervening time, and it’s all okay. (What’s not okay with me is the memory of watching that game 7 in an apartment somewhere in the West End, and seeing the puck hit the goalposts twice in the dying minutes of that torturous painful third period …)

    But I have to say I love the analogy with Moonlight Graham, and because the ideas surrounding “Field of Dreams” to this day still resonate strongly with me.

    Thanks for highlighting Asian Heritage Month, Beck.

  2. K. Gee says:

    Hi Miss 604,

    Larry is a hero to many, and I am sure he is happy to know that so many have been inspired by his story. His story will hopefully be in documentary format in the near future, please let everybody know, and keep their eyes open.

    An old feature from 1994 (available also at Canada’s Hockey Hall of Fame) on Larry can be found online at :

    http://everything2.com/e2node/Larry%2520Kwong

    More later,

    Kenda
    Edmonton

  3. fotoeins says:

    Congratulations to Mr. Kwong!

  4. Todd Wong says:

    Thanks for the update Rebecca
    It was really EXCITING to be at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Dinner to see Larry Kwong receive a Standing Ovation as he was named the inaugural recipient of the Pioneer Award. Chad Soon is pushing hard for Larry to receive his own induction to the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.

    Check out my July 24, 2010 article about Larry Kwong receiving the inaugural PIONEER AWARD at the July 23 BC Hockey Hall of Fame Inauguration Dinner.
    http://www.gunghaggisfatchoy.com/blog/_archives/2010/7/24/4587181.html

    + Here is Terry Glavin’s January 2008 article about Larry Kwong
    http://transmontanus.blogspot.com/2008/01/story-of-larry-kwong-bellhop-shipyard.html

    + Here is Tom Hawthorn’s January 2008 article about Larry Kwong
    http://tomhawthorn.blogspot.com/2008/01/larry-kwong-beat-long-odds.html

    Here is the March 2008 Calgary Herald Article courtesy of Kenda Gee
    http://www.oocities.com/calgaryfoodretirees/kwong.html

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