CALGARY, Alberta — Norman Kwong, the first Chinese Canadian player in the Canadian Football League who later served as Alberta’s lieutenant governor, died Saturday. He was 86.
Kwong’s family said he died in his sleep at home.
The China Clipper was a bruising fullback, front-office manager in the CFL and part-owner of his home-town hockey squad, the Calgary Flames.
“Mr. Kwong was proud to be the son of Chinese immigrants. He was an Alberta success story from an early age,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said in a statement. “From his storied career in the Canadian Football League to his later co-ownership of the Calgary Flames, he was a champion on the field of play and in life.”
Kwong played 13 years with the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders. At 18 with the Stampeders, the Calgary-born Kwong was the youngest player to win the Grey Cup.
His 1955 pursuit of the league rushing record exemplified his tenacity. Trailing Winnipeg’s Gerry James by 149 yards going into the last regular-season game of the year, Kwong ran for a single-game record 192 yards and set the season mark with 1,250. In the Grey Cup victory over Montreal that year, he ran for 145 yards.
When Kwong retired from playing football in 1960, he held 30 CFL records and two Schenley Awards as the league’s outstanding Canadian. H was voted Canada’s athlete of the year in 1955, beating out teammate Jackie Parker and hockey great Rocket Richard.
He rushed for 9,022 yards in his career, the third-highest total in CFL history, won four Grey Cups and gained 1,000 yards a season five times. He was selected all-Canadian five times, voted to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Order of Canada in 1998.
His 192 yards rushing in a game stood for 45 years until it was broken by Sean Millington in 1999.
“How many Canadians are able to earn a place in our record books, history books and in our hearts? The Honorable Normie Kwong did,” CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge tweeted.
He is survived by wife Mary, four sons and 10 grandchildren.