Sports

New York exposure for Kwong

It was nice getting a few calls this week asking if I saw the great piece on Larry Kwong by David Davis in Tuesday’s New York Times.

Some of you met the wonderful Kwong when he was inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 at the Schubert Centre.

Wrote Davis: “Larry Kwong’s career with the Rangers lasted a New York minute, but his legacy lingers some 65 years after his debut ended in disappointment. Long before Jeremy Lin transfixed the NBA and New York City, Kwong was the first player of Chinese descent to appear in the NHL. He played for the Rangers in one game, for one shift, during the 1947-48 season.”

Davis mentioned that Kwong (born in 1923, three years before the Rangers came into existence) started his hockey journey in Vernon.

“The gold mines drew his father to Canada from China in the 1880s,” wrote Davis. “But he failed to make his fortune and turned to farming, then opened a grocery store, Kwong Hing Lung. He had 15 children with two wives; Larry was the second youngest. Although his surname was Eng, he adopted the name of the store, and the family lived above it. The children pitched in after their father died when Larry was five.”

Davis pointed out that they faced other setbacks. Under the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, Chinese-Canadians were denied the vote and other basic rights.

Larry couldn’t get a job. The local barber wouldn’t cut his hair because he was Chinese.

Added Davis: “He found solace, and his métier, on the frozen ponds in the woods above Vernon. When the temperature dipped below freezing, his brothers would create a rink by dumping water in the empty lot beside the store. Larry had to beg his mother to buy his first skates; she bought a pair several sizes too big so he could wear them for several winters.”

Kwong talked at the Hall of Fame luncheon about playing for the Vernon Midget Hydrophones in the late 1930s. He then played for the Trail Smoke Eaters, who typically provided jobs for the players at the local smelter. Kwong was denied employment there because of his ethnicity, so he worked as a hotel bellhop.

These days, Davis wrote, Kwong, wearing prosthetic legs, works out three times a week. “He meets Rotary pals for coffee weekly and has had season tickets to the Calgary Stampeders for 35 years. He said he never misses a home game, even in below-zero weather. He is planning his 90th birthday party for 200 people in June.”

Davis quoted longtime hockey journalist Stan Fischler, who said of Kwong, who starred for the New York Rovers: “He was very clever and a good skater. He was like Yvan Cournoyer.”

And from Hall of Fame forward Jean Beliveau, who played senior alongside Kwong with the Valleyfield Aces in Quebec: “Larry made his wing men look good because he was a great passer. He was doing what a center man is supposed to do.”

Brownlee making sweet sounds

Chad Brownlee was a stellar defenceman with the Vernon Vipers back in the day. He racked up 14 goals, 42 points and 125 penalty minutes in two seasons (2001-03).

He was drafted in the sixth round by the Vancouver Canucks in the ‘03 amateur lottery and played four years of NCAA with the Mankato State Mavericks with David Backes (St. Louis Blues).

After one year of pro hockey with Armstrong’s Aaron Gagnon and the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL, Brownlee turned to music.

The 28-year-old Kelowna product released the album Love Me or Leave Me a year ago and it’s now up for Country Album of the Year.

In addition to his musical adventures, he also announced a new partnership with the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation, visiting camps throughout Canada and leading music workshops with the campers last summer.

It’s not the first awards success for Brownlee since he took the Canadian Country Music Award (CCMA) Rising Star nod in 2011 and was nominated in 2012 for a CCMA Male Artist of the Year.

He will appear on the stage opening night of the inaugural Western (Junior A hockey) Canada Cup, April 27 in Nanaimo, a week after going to Regina for the Juno awards.

Tweets from all over

From Vernon pro tennis sensation Vasek Pospisil: “My brothers’ band “Gentle Machine” just hit #1 on Vancouver Alternative/Indie chart on ReverbNation. Nice work!!! @tompospisil #PetrPospisil.

From From Brandon Wheat Kings scout Mike Fraser (@MikeFraser29): “You know you enjoy being a scout when you’re an hour away from your 227th game of the season and can’t wait to watch it.”

Quote of the year (so far)...

“The Royal Canadian Mint begins melting pennies this month with almost 200,000 expected to be cashed in during the first week. And that’s just from CFL players.” – Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

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