Hockey Legend Larry Kwong will be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. I attended the announcment of the 2013 inductees with my friend Chad Soon, who had nominated Mr. Kwong for the honour.
It was a fun morning as the names were called by famed announcer Tom Larscheid, himself an inductee. The first name called was swimmer Brent Hayden, who recently won a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. At three-time Olympian, Hayden was 2007 world champion in the 100-metre freestyle.
back row Brent Hayden – swimming, Robert Hindson – rugby, Pat Quin – W.A.C. Bennett Lifetime Achievement; Middle row: Keven Alexander – lacrosse, Ken Shields BUILDER basketball, Larry Isaac MEDIA; front row Ralph Hutton – TEAM swimming (1965 Ocean Falls Swim Clubs); Larry Kwong PIONEER – hockey.
Here is a list of all the 2013 B.C. SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Kevin Alexander, lacrosse
Dawn Coe-Jones, golf
Brent Hayden, swimming
Robert ‘Ro’ Hindson, rugby
Peter Reid, triathlon
Kathy Shields, basketball
Ken Shields, basketball
TEAM 1965 Ocean Falls Swim Club
Larry Kwong, hockey
The Vernon native was the first player of Asian descent to play in the NHL when he suited up for one game with the New York Rangers in 1948. Later enjoyed a stellar career in the highly regarded Quebec Senior Hockey League
MEDIA Larry Isaac, TV producer
W.A.C. BENNETT AWARD Pat Quinn (hockey)
Kwong was actually the first non-white hockey player in the NHL in 1948, only a year after Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in Major League Baseball. Kwong preceded Fred Sasakamoose (aboriginal) in 1953, and Willie O’Ree (African) in 1958.
But Kwong was also an outstanding player. He was a star forward in 1939 with the Vernon Hydrophones, helping to lead them to the midget hockey championship of BC in 1939 and then to the provincial juvenile title in 1941. Kwong then joined the Trail Smoke Eaters which had recently won the 1939 World Ice Hockey Championships. With the outbreak of World War II, Kwong enlisted in the Canadian Forces. Instead of being deployed overseas like many others, he was recruited to play hockey to entertain the troops. In 1945, he returned to play with the Trail Smoke Eaters, which won the West Kootenay Hockey League Championship.
In 1948, his second year with the New York Ranger’s farm team, Kwong was the Rovers’ top scorer with 57 points (20 goals and 37 assists). Despite his performance, other players were promoted to the Rangers before him. When he finally got called up to play for the Rangers against the Montreal Canadiens on March 31,1948 – he only played one shift in the third period.
Disappointed with the Rangers, Kwong took a more lucrative contract with the Valleyfield Braves in the Quebec Senior Hockey League (QSHL) from 1948 to 1955 racking up 445 points (198 goals and 247 assists). 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. He later coached HC Lugano and HC Lausanne. Kwong also became a tennis coach in Switzerland.