"Every Saturday night we would go to the top floor of our store ... turn on the radio and listen to Foster Hewitt [play-by-play game announcer for Hockey Night in Canada]."
"My Dad came over in 1884 on a clipper ship," says Larry Kwong, telling the story of how his father got a new start in a place he called "Gold Mountain."
A young man at age 16, his father left Sam Yip Village in southern China for the long journey to Canada. He tried mining for gold at Cherry Creek, B.C., while others worked on the railway. When he finished, "he walked over the Monashee and landed in Vernon," says Larry.
He began raising a family with his first wife, who gave him six children, and ran a general store. Then he married Larry's mother, Loo Ying Tow, in 1904. Larry's mother added nine more to the family. "I'm Number 14," says Larry, born in 1923. His father died five years later and his mother took over the store.next page >
Growing up, Larry recalls his older siblings going away to work, finding jobs with other Chinese at a time when white employers would not hire them. A poor student, Larry decided to try playing hockey for a living. He was scouted by the Trail Smoke Eaters, and went to play for them. At the time, hockey players weren't paid, so players had to find jobs to support themselves. His team mates all got jobs at the smelter, but not Larry - because he was Chinese.
Discrimination dogged Larry, but he eventually donned the uniform of the New York Rangers in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on March 13, 1948. Larry became the first Asian Canadian to play in the National Hockey League, but his success was short-lived. He was only on the ice for one minute. "Just a minute. So what can you do in a minute? Unless you're a real magician, what can you do in a minute?" says Larry. For the next seven years, he played with the Valleyfield Braves hockey team in Quebec, and later he taught sports in a private school in Switzerland.< previous page