larry kwong

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During the 1947-48 season, Larry “King” Kwong (born Eng Kai Geong, June 17, 1923-) became the first Chinese Canadian to play in the NHL as a member of the New York Rangers Hockey Club. Born in Vernon, British Columbia, he first played with western clubs such as the Trail Smoke Eaters, Nanaimo Clippers and Red Deer Wheelers. In 1944, Kwong was drafted into the Canadian Army and after a year of military service, he returned to hockey. He was signed onto the New York Rovers, the New York Rangers’ farm team, and scored 86 point in 65 games in the 1947-48 season. On March 13, 1948, Kwong made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum. He was on the ice for one minute, but that minute broke the colour barrier. However, Kwong would not get another opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level with the Rangers, as that would be the only NHL game he played.

Also known as the “China Clipper” Kwong went on to have a long and distinguished career in senior leagues in Canada and the USA, later receiving the Byng of Vimy award as the most valuable player in the league. He also played hockey in England and coached in Switzerland before retiring in 1958.

(Images from various sources)

“I broke the ice a little bit,” [Larry Kwong] said, pointing to the numerous players of Asian ancestry who have since played in the league. “Maybe being the first Chinese player in the N.H.L. gave more of a chance for other Chinese boys that play hockey.”

[…]

Under the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, Chinese-Canadians were denied the vote and other basic rights.

“We were discriminated against in my own hometown,” Kwong said in a recent Skype video interview. “I couldn’t get a job. The barber wouldn’t cut my hair because I was Chinese.”

He found solace, and his métier, on the frozen ponds in the woods above Vernon.

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