Popsicle Brothers (Part One)

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: November 23, 2008

CALIFORNIA — As a New Jersey kid, I was the only African American child in the city that loved hockey. The operations on my legs cause me to retire to bed early and watch minor league hockey. That’s how I learned the game on the ice.

The rules of this game can be very complicated and complex but once a fan understands each rule the game become very simple. Put the black puck in the net.

Three years later, a friend from Freehold, New Jersey took me to a New York Ranger game in the old Madison Square Garden on 33rd Street in 1968, once again being the only African American face in MSG.

Ever since then hockey has captured my sports fascination.

Currently there is a flood of players of color in the National Hockey League.

Larry “King” Kwong born Eng Kai Geong a Chinese – Canadian was the first Asian to don a hockey uniform. He skated on the ice as center, for the 1948 New York Rangers. He played only one game on March 13, 1948 against the Montreal Canadians. Kwong was only on the ice for a minute in the third period, and tallied no points in the short stint in the majors. Another Asian player would not wear a hockey jersey for over forty years. His career started in 1939 with the Vernon Hydrophones of the Minor British Colombian League and ended in England 1958 with the Nottingham Panthers.

Right winger Robin Bawa played for the Washington Capitols in 1989. He continued the parade of South East Asian players into the National Hockey League. Bawa ended his career with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and was the first Canadian-Indian to play in the National Hockey League. There is no doubt that he paved the way for the next French Canadian-Indian player nine years later.

The only other player of Indian (New Delhi) descent was Manny Malhotra, number 27. He was the hard hitting center for the New York Rangers in 1998 and presently plays for the expansion team Columbus Blue Jackets.

Goalie Yutaka Fukufuji became the first Japanese born hockey player to play in the National Hockey League. He is currently playing part-time as goalie for the Los Angeles Kings. Fukufuji continued to lead the way for other Japanese-Canadians, Japanese Americans and Japanese Nationals to put on those hockey jerseys.

Jamie Storr, Japanese-Canadian goaltender played for the 1994-95 Los Angeles Kings and the 2005-2006 Carolina Hurricanes. Storr is currently playing in the Deutche Eishockey Liga (European German Hockey League). Storr made the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Kings and Canes.

Paul Kariya number 9 is currently playing for the Saint Louis Blues and Steve Kariya are the famous Japanese-Canadian brothers. Paul entered the league with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1994-95. Paul became an instant All Star and Canadian Olympic and World Teams. With his speed and scoring abilities teammates had a very easy time around the oppositions net. Younger brother Steve entered the league with the 1999-2002 Vancouver Canucks and is currently playing overseas with the Swedish Elite League team.

David Tanabe number 45, Japanese-American played as a defenseman for the 1999-2003 Carolina Hurricanes and ended his career with the Canes five years later after a severe concussion. He played his best games with the Boston Bruins in 2005-2006. He was the most disappointing Asian player in terms of potential because he had so much scoring talent. Unfortunately his career was cut short.

Devin Setoguchi number 16, Japanese-Canadian Right Winger plays for the first place San Jose Sharks. Devin has been working hard on the Sharks first line this year. Helping the San Jose Sharks off to its best start in team history, with a record of 13 and 1 at home in the Shark tank. He currently has 11 goals with 11 assist.

Jim Paek a defenseman for the 1990-93 Pittsburgh Penguins became the first Korean-Canadian player to play in NHL. Retired with the experience of playing over 200 games. Paek opened the door for fellow Koreans to skate on the ice

The more famous Korean-American Right winger, number 10, Richard Park (Bak Yong-Su), born in Seoul, Korea played for the Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins. He now plays for the New York Islanders and has cause them to be a better defense team. In 2008 Park was given the Bob Nystrom Award for leadership, dedication, and hustle.

Chinese born Charles Wang was the only Asian part owner of the New York Islanders in 2000. In 2004 he became the majority owner. He has created an instructional league in Shanghai China for Chinese youth to understand and play the game of hockey.

In the years to come the National Hockey League will be seeing more Chinese Nationals on the ice just as Yao Ming walked on the National Basketball Association Court. That sent a beacon to young Chinese men that they can play basketball with the big boys.

Chris Beckford-Tseu, a Chinese-Black Canadian goaltender for the 2008 St. Louis Blues. The Florida Panthers signed him as a free agent but he never played a game in the south. Tseu is currently playing for the American Hockey League Rochester Americans.

The San Jose Sharks have created a sister team in Beijing, China, called the China Sharks. This team will be sending their best players to the 2009 draft trails.

NEXT: Native Americans and Latino players.