Great to WITNESS Larry Kwong awarded the
inaugural PIONEER AWARD last night at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame,
last night in Penticton. July 23, 2010. This was a special award that was created so that the 82 year old Vernon-born hockey player could be honoured. It was sponsored by the Okanagan Hockey School.
Chad Soon has been leading the drive to have Kwong inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame. I met Chad at Christmas time, and he was excited enough about Larry Kwong's place in hockey history, that he has been contacting hockey card companies, hockey teams, and other organizations that would support such a campaign. Chad contacted me two weeks ago and told me that the award would be presented to Larry. It was a coincidence that I was planning to be in the Okanagan that same weekend, so I purchased the ticket to the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.
Chad Soon greeted as soon as I stepped onto the event floor at the South Okanagan Event Centre, in Penticton. It is a hockey arena that
also plays host to concerts. It was a wonderful setting with over a hundred tables set up inside the hockey rink boards. Banners from each year listed the names of that year's inductees. There were tables filled with silent auction prizes that ranged from gift certificates for restaurants to signed Vancouver Canucks jerseys by Trevor Linden and Roberto Luongo, to holiday getaways.
Larry Kwong's daughter and grand-daughters
with Gavin Donald and his display about Larry Kwong – photo Todd Wong
I chatted with Chad's wife Zoe, while Chad helped Larry get settled with his daughter and grand-daughters at their table. Zoe pointed out a display about Larry Kwong that had been created by one of Chad's elementary school students, Gavin Donald, who had one a prize at the Vernon Regional History Fair. Kenda Gee, came by to say hello and ask me to sign a release document, as the Chinese-Canadian history activist is producing a documentary film about Chinese Canadians which will also feature Larry Kwong.
There was a 90 minute reception period during which Chad went around the room, trying to get the signatures of the inducted hockey players on a hockey stick to be gifted to Larry. Dinner was served around 6:30pm. Roast beef, chicken, roast potatoes, greek salad, spinach salad, pasta salad, steamed vegetables…. all good meat & potatoes food for hockey afficianados.
When the awards portion began at 7pm, some announcements were made that recognized the hockey achievements in BC including the Canadian Mens and Womens Olympic hockey teams winning gold in Vancouver Olympics.
Before then new names could be inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame, the following awards were presented:
BC Lifetime Achievement to Andrew Mustard
Patricia Carter Bursary to Madison Dias
Minor Hockey Player of the Year to Curtis Zazar
Emcee Bernie Pascall then asked guests to turn their attentions to the screens as a video titled “The Longest Shot” began. It told the history of a baby born born in Vernon to a Chinese Canadian family just days before Canadian Parliament enacted the “Chinese Exclusion Act”. The audience learned that Larry Kwong played for the Vernon Hydrophone and won the midget and junior BC Championships in 1939 and 1941. He also played with the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Nanaimo Clippers where all the other team players were able to have jobs in the local factory, except for Kwong because he was Chinese.
The narrator told of every BC hockey playing boy's dream of getting called up to the NHL, as Larry was called up to the New York Rovers, the NHL farm team for the New York Rangers. Then during the 47-48 season he was called up to NHL. Larry suited up at the Montreal Forum March 13, 1948. He said that Larry sat on the bench for the first period, the second period and most of the third period… before hearing his name called. At the Montreal Forum, Larry Kwong stepped onto the ice for his first NHL shift. A minute later, it was over, and his name wasn't called again.
Larry didn't let the bitterness of a colour barrier stop him from enjoying playing hockey. He loved hockey. Kwong had an exciting and long amateur and minor league career with the Valleyfield Braves of the Quebec Senior League where he played against future NHL stars Jean Belliveau and Jacques Plante. In 1951, Kwong was the recipient of the Byng of Vimy Award for Most Valuable Player of the Quebec Senior League and as assistant captain, he helped to lead the Valleyfield Braves to the Alexander Cup, the Canadian Senior “A” Championship.
He also spent one season with the Nottingham Panthers in Britain before retiring in 1957. Kwong decided to go to Switzerland for a year, and became a hockey and tennis coach. He had such a wonderful time, it was 15 years before he returned to Canada to run the family grocery, formerly known as Kwong Hing
Lung (Abundant Prosperity), Food-Vale.
Larry Kwong on stage as he received the inaugural Pioneer Award at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame – photo Todd Wong
When the film was over, Larry was on stage in his wheel chair. He uses a wheelchair because a few years ago his legs had been amputated for health issues. Our group of tables were the first to give Larry a standing ovation. Gavin and his mother stood up. Chad and his wife and father stood up. Larry's 2 grand-daughters and daughter stood up. And soon the entire audience was standing up clapping, while Larry waved to the crowd and gracefully accepted the appreciation.
The next two awards to be awarded was the induction of hockey builder Frank Lento and hockey player Dallas Drake. There was a 20 minute break for Live Auction items. Then the next two inductees were introduced, hockey builder Bruce Hamilton and hockey player Trevor Linden.
There was a video that recounted Linden's career with the Vancouver Canucks, his time spent with New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals, as well as with the Canadian Olympic team in Nagano Olympics in 1998. Linden was introduced by Pat Quinn, the man who drafted him second over-all in the 1988 junior draft. It was very clear that Trevor Linden's induction was the highlight of the evening.
So many people were moved to learn the “Larry Kwong Story”
last night while watching the video about Larry. There was additional
recognition from the stage from Pat Quinn, Stockwell Day and others……
Yes it was Trevor Linden's Night to be inducted to the BC Hockey Hall of
Fame, but soon after Trevor stepped off the stage, and the event was
over, Trevor was congratulating Larry Kwong.
2010 inductee Trevor Linden congratulates Larry Kwong – photo Chad Soon
Larry also came to Vernon Museum on Saturday July 24, for a special reception, to meet supporters.
Larry took a picture with us at the end of the evening. Todd Wong and Chad Soon are each beside Larry, as he holds his new Pioneer Award plaque. Chad's father Martin and wife Zoe stand behind us. Chad was instrumental in working with BC Hockey Hall of fame to initiate recognition for Larry Kwong – photo Todd Wong
Attending the BC Hockey Hall of Fame event was a different and unique experience for me. I was surrounded by “jocks!” Everything was hockey players, hockey coaches, hockey builders! The silent auction items were hockey pictures, hockey equipment, etc. Even though I've been a hockey card collector since I was 8 years old, and attended a few games – this was really like stepping into a whole new world. It was exciting to see such hockey legends as Trevor Linden, Pat Quinn, Ken Hitchcock all in the same room! What fun!
For the past few years I have been attending the BC Book Awards, filled with BC's top literati. I also attended the first two City of Vancouver Mayor's Arts Awards, which acknowledge the cream of Vancouver's performing, studio and culinary arts, as well as arts philanthropists. The last times I attended a sports award event was when I was an eighteen year old at
Carson Graham High School and on the wrestling and badminton teams. But a
few years ago, I was a recipient for a community contribution award at
the Simon Fraser University Recreation Awards, http://www.gunghaggisfatchoy.com/blog/_archives/2005/4/4/553636.html
Here are my pictures from the event.