New York, NY, USA

Asian Menswear Spotlight Series: Larry Kwong


A year after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Wat Misaka broke basketball's with the New York Knicks, Larry Kwong broke hockey's with the New York Rangers.⁣

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣Hailing from Vernon, British Columbia, Kwong was a leading scorer for the Rangers' farm team, the New York Rovers, earning nicknames "King Kwong" and the "China Clipper".⁣

"He was a big box office draw for them," Kwong's friend Chad Soon told NBC News. "On occasion, the Rovers would outdraw the Rangers at Madison Square Garden."⁣. 

In March 1948, Kwong appeared as if he was getting his big break. He was summoned by the Rangers to take on the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum. However, the first period passed, and Kwong didn't play. The second period passed, and Kwong didn't play. Finally, in the third period, Kwong got on the ice for exactly one shift.⁣

⁣He was sent back to the Rovers the next day after one NHL shift.⁣

⁣"How can you prove yourself in a minute on the ice?" Kwong asked The Globe & Mail in 2014. "Couldn't even get warmed up."⁣

Soon noted,

⁣"Back in 1948, it was hard to catch a break when you looked like Larry did."⁣

⁣Seeing the writing on the wall, Kwong left the Rovers for more lucrative professional opportunities elsewhere.⁣

⁣He played and coached in Europe. When he was hired as player-coach of Switzerland's HC Ambrì-Piotta, he became the first person of Chinese descent to coach a professional hockey team, according to the Calgary Herald.⁣

⁣Kwong died in March 2018 in Calgary. He was 94.⁣

⁣Soon, however, is keeping Kwong's legacy alive. He started a Larry Kwong Appreciation Society on Facebook and is spearheading efforts to get Kwong inducted into both Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.