Thursday, November 24, 2016 — TORONTO – The life and legacy of Canadian football legend, four-time Grey Cup champion and Alberta icon Norman Kwong were honoured this evening with the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award at the Shaw CFL Awards.
“He was a trailblazer. It could not have been easy, back in the 1950s, to be the first Chinese-Canadian to play in the league,” said Ottawa REDBLACKS head coach Rick Campbell as he presented the award that bears his father’s name to the Kwong family.
“Think of what he must have faced, and then think of what he did, what he accomplished. He met prejudice with persistence. He overcame barriers with optimism. And later in life, when he received many honours, he always met praise with humility and even self-deprecation.”
The Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award is named after the legendary player, coach and executive who amassed ten Grey Cup victories, including five consecutive titles from 1978 to 1982 as coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. It is awarded to an individual, chosen by the Commissioner of the CFL, who has demonstrated great leadership and has made significant contributions to the league.
Kwong was indeed a trailblazer as an athlete and businessman. He became the first Canadian of Asian heritage to play for the CFL when he joined the Calgary Stampeders in 1948; he holds the distinction of being the youngest player to win the Grey Cup at the age of 18 with the Stampeders. He was a dominant running back throughout a career that lasted more than a decade in Calgary and Edmonton.
His tenacity and determination earned him the respect of his competitors, while garnering numerous accolades. Entering Edmonton’s season finale in 1955, Kwong trailed the league rushing record by 149 yards; he eclipsed the mark by totaling 192 yards, while establishing new records for rushing attempts in a game, carries in a season and rushing yards in a season with 1,250. He concluded the campaign by adding records of 30 carries and 145 rushing yards in a championship game en route to a Grey Cup victory. His record-setting season earned him the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada's male athlete of the year.
Kwong held over 30 CFL records upon his retirement from football in 1960. The five-time all-Canadian was twice named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1969.
After the conclusion of his career, Kwong led a successful life as a business leader before becoming the first Chinese-Canadian to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Alberta from 2005 to 2010. Ever an ambassador for sport who championed his home province, Kwong was a member of the ownership group that brought the Flames to Calgary and a successful president and general manager of the Stampeders.
He was a generous member of the community, counting time spent as honourary chairman of Calgary’s Easter Seals Campaign and national chairman of the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism amongst his many roles with non-profit organizations. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1988.
He died on September 3, 2016 at the age of 86, survived by his wife Mary, four sons, and 10 grandchildren.