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Larry Kwong: The Man and the Minute That Changed the NHL Forever

Just shy of a year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in American professional baseball in 1947, Larry Kwong entered an ice rink in Montreal and did the same for the National Hockey League.

But unlike Robinson, Kwong, 91, isn’t a household name. Filmmakers Chester Sit and Wes Miron hope to change that with their hour-long television documentary chronicling Kwong’s storied hockey career of three decades, including his 60 seconds on the ice as a New York Ranger and the NHL’s first player of Asian descent.

Larry Kwong
Larry Kwong, flanked by Lily Pon and May Dong of Manhattan’s China Doll nightclub, receives the keys to New York’s Chinatown in 1947 from then-Chinatown “mayor” Shavey Lee. Courtesy Larry Kwong

Former and current professional hockey players, NHL scouts and Kwong himself attended an August 10 private screening of “The China Clipper – The Larry Kwong Story,” hosted by the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in British Columbia, to celebrate the Chinese-Canadian’s contributions to the sport.

The documentary has also aired in English, Mandarin and Cantonese on Omni Television, a Canadian multicultural television network, said Canadian-born Sit, 36, whose parents emigrated from Hong Kong.

Sit added they are currently in talks with distributors to release the documentary internationally.

Larry Kwong
Larry Kwong recalls his career as a Canadian-Chinese hockey player in “The China Clipper – The Larry Kwong Story,” a television documentary directed by Chester Sit and Wes Miron. "The China Clipper - The Larry Kwong Story"

While Willie O’Ree, a Canadian, is credited with breaking the black color barrier in professional ice hockey in 1958, Sit said Kwong’s stint with the Rovers, a New York farm team that played at Madison Square Garden, and his NHL debut on March 13, 1948, gave hope to a generation of Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians who faced rampant discrimination at every turn.

“They were amazed he was playing a game they were not supposed to play,” said Sit. “It shifted their perception of what was possible.”

Larry Kwong
Larry Kwong playing for the Valleyfield Braves, a Canadian Junior ice hockey team in Quebec. Courtesy Larry Kwong