Beloved Canadian sports legend Normie Kwong passed away in his sleep on Saturday at the age of 86.
Normie was born on 24 October 1929 in Calgary, Alberta where he attended Western Canada High School and starred on the gridiron. After graduating from high school, he signed to play with the Calgary Stampeders thus becoming the first Chinese-Canadian to play professional football.
Playing fullback, he helped the Stampeders to win the Grey Cup in his rookie season. (Incidentally Stampeder fans introduced modern day hoopla into the Grey Cup in 1948 when they rode their horses through the lobby of the staid old Royal York Hotel in prim and proper Toronto. This was a seminal event in making the Grey Cup weekend a national festival and thus a part of Canada's cultural heritage.)
He was traded by the Stampeders to the Edmonton Eskimos prior to the 1951 season. He led the Western Interprovincial Football Union in rushing in 1951, 1955 and 1956 setting a CFL record which stood until 2012 for the most yards rushing by a Canadian in a season with 1,437 in 1956. He won the Schenley Award for Most Outstanding Canadian in 1955 and 1956. He helped the Eskimos win three Grey Cups in a row from 1954 to 1956. He retired following the 1960 season.
Sadly statistics weren't kept by the WIFU in his first two years but Normie rushed for an average of 5.2 yards per carry between 1950 and 1960 and compiled a total of 9,022 yards rushing which puts him in eighth place on the all-time CFL rushing yardage list. He also scored 93 recorded touchdowns putting him tied for ninth on the all-time list.
His rushing exploits earned him the "China Clipper" nickname and he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1969.
As a Stampeder and as an Eskimo:
With fellow CFL legends Johnny Bright and Jackie "Spaghetti Legs" Parker after their 1956 Grey Cup triumph:
From the Weekend Magazine:
In a practice jersey (or miscoloured) from the 1959 Topps CFL set, the very first bubble gum cards I bought and collected as a kid:
He was named Canadian Athlete of the Year in 1955 and inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.
But his achievements after his playing career ended were perhaps even more impressive. He was part of a group of six Calgary businessmen who bought the Atlanta Flames and moved the team to Calgary. When the Calgary Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, Normie Kwong joined Carl Voss and Lionel Conacher (Canada's Athlete of the 1900-50 half century) as the only individuals to have their names inscribed on both the Grey Cup and the Stanley Cup.
He also served as president and general manager of the Calgary Stampeders from 1988 to 1991 where he laid the foundation for the team being a perennial contender ever since.
In 1988 Normie received the Order of Canada. He was then appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Alberta on 20 January 2005 serving until 11 May 2010. (To the uninitiated, a province's Lieutenant-Governor is the titular chief executive officer of the province appointing premiers and signing bills into law. While on a day-to-day basis his functions are largely ceremonial, his is the supreme authority in the province under the Constitution.) With his legendary status in both Calgary and Edmonton, Normie was probably the best loved Lieutenant-Governor that Alberta ever had.
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