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.
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.
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.”