Fans push for Larry Kwong’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 75 years after he broke the NHL color barrier

Nearly 75 years after Chinese-Canadian Larry Kwong broke the NHL color barrier, a group of dedicated fans are pressing for his posthumous induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF).

Born in Vernon, British Columbia, Kwong earned accolades for his skills as a middleweight, and led his junior hockey team to a regional championship at the age of 16.

In 1948, as the New York Rovers’ lead scorer, Kwong was called up by the New York Rangers and once played late in the third period in a game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Old Montreal Forum.

Rangers’ move to put Kwong on the ice is now seen as a publicity stunt, but with this 60-second turnaround, Kwong became the first person of color to play in the NHL.

Larry Kwong aka “King Kwong”

The incredible story of the first non-white player in the NHL.

His National Hockey League career was short-lived, with the Rangers returning Kwong to the Palace after the match.

Disappointed with his short stint in the NHL, Kwong left the Rangers to play professional hockey in Quebec, facing off against hockey legend Jean Beliveau. In 1957, Kwong moved to Europe where he played and coached hockey for over 15 years.

Kwong passed away in 2018 at the age of 94.

Sharing Kwong’s story

It’s a story that elementary school teacher Chad Son has been telling his students over a decade ago in Kwong’s hometown of Vernon.

“I just want to keep sharing this story because as a teacher I really see how inspiring it is for kids,” he said soon.

He soon learned about Kwong from his grandfather. He contacted Kwong after moving to Vernon, and eventually developed a close friendship with Kwong, who was in his late 80s at the time and living in Calgary.

Larry Kwong played mini hockey as a center in the 1941-1942 Trail Smoke Eaters in Trail, British Columbia (CBC)

He quickly said, “Larry was very humble. That was the case with his generation and the generation of my grandparents…They didn’t talk about the discrimination they faced.”

“He was always smiling, despite all the things he’d faced—all the harsh treatments, he’d never let stop him.”

In 2013, he quickly helped lead the charge recognizing Kwong’s contributions to that year’s BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Try HHOF Induction

Now soon he is part of the group of Kwong supporters who are calling for his induction as a building block for the 2023 class of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

If successful, Kwong will join an exclusive group of hockey players, coaches and executives in the Builders category, including Willie O’Ree and Herb Carnegie – other players of color who have helped diversify the game of hockey.

Chad will soon file a petition for Larry Kwong’s hockey achievements to be recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Chad soon)

An online petition calling for Kwong’s HHOF instigation garnered more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week.

It was started by Chris Wu, who runs a website and Instagram page that supports the achievements of hockey players of Asian descent from where he lives in California.

“Special Year for Everything Larry Kwong”

“Over recent years, the National Hockey League and hockey in general have made huge strides in celebrating diversity,” Wu said, adding, “2023 is a significant year because that will be the 75th anniversary of Larry’s historic game with the New York Rangers. If Larry is still Alive, this would have been his 100th birthday, so 2023 really is a special year for all things Larry Kwong.”

Larry Kwong spoke with CBC in 2013 about his life in hockey and the racism he encountered along the way. (CBC)

Getting Kwong into HHOF won’t be an easy task. Only one or two people are recruited as builders each year after that large-scale electoral processwhich includes being nominated by one of the 18 Selection Committee Members.

“This is going to be a very difficult process,” said Muzin Hashem, who was a member of the NHL hockey youth inclusion committee from 2019 to 2021 and runs the Hockey 4 Youth charity.

Hashem grew up in British Columbia and says he was inspired by Kwong’s story as a young player of South Asian descent.

Kwong’s story inspires young people

Hashem hopes to use his connections in the hockey world to promote Kwong’s story.

“All we can do is put our best foot forward and gather everything we need to show Larry who he really is, not just as a hockey player but as someone who has given back to his community, who has given back to Canada, to Switzerland.”

He said having role models like Kwong recognized at the highest levels of hockey is important to diversify the sport and make it something all Canadian children can see themselves playing.

“It will inspire young people to believe that they are part of the game, that they have always been part of the game.”