Normie Kwong – Canadian Football Star Passes Away

by setohj

Hall of Fame football star Normie Kwong, affectionately known as the China Clipper to his fans, passed away in the city of Calgary, September 3, 2016 at the age of 86. He is a true legend in the Canadian Football League (CFL), setting numerous records and winning the Schenley Award twice as the most outstanding Canadian player. In 1955 he was elected athlete of the year in Canada, edging out over his team mate Jackie Parker and the hockey legend Rocket Richard. He played on four Grey Cup champion teams: the Calgary Stampeders in 1948 and the Edmonton Eskimos in 1954, 1955 and 1956. His post-football careers turned out to be also quite remarkable. In the 1980s he, as part-owner, brought the Flames hockey team to Calgary culminating in that city’s first Stanley Cup championship in 1989. He served in social, political and charitable causes. In 2005 he became the governor-general of his home province Alberta.

His Chinese name is Du Men (佐民) and his Chinese surname is Lim (林) [1]. I wonder, what did the Chinese language newspapers in Canada of his playing days have to say about him as a football hero? A search using his Chinese name on the digitized files of The Chinese Times web site resulted in nothing prior to 1955 about his football career. While admired by many football fans throughout Canada, it seems likely that he was not remarkable in the eyes of most members of the Chinese community in British Columbia during this time. Only after his monster success in setting new records during the 1955 season did he win the adoration of many more new Chinese fans. By this time, he was already a member of two successful Grey Cup teams.

There appears to be extensive coverage in the Chinese language media of Normie Kwong and his exploits on the football field after his team the Edmonton Eskimos won the Western Conference championship in 1955. It was a records-breaking year for Kwong. An article in The Chinese Times, published two days before the Grey Cup final, reported on Kwong’s family pedigree and the huge sums of money he’s making which probably elevated the stature of Canadian football in the eyes of the Chinese in Canada. Coincidentally, the Grey Cup final was held in Vancouver for the first time ever in 1955, which probably added to the hype of a Chinese star in the game, as Vancouver had the largest Chinese population of any city in Canada at the time.

My draft translation of this newspaper article from the November 24, 1955 issue of The Chinese Times follows.

Here is the text in the original Chinese language [2]:




佐民君在足球紀錄部。經被列爲唯壹中國人。以足球賽爲職業者。而今年又再立奇功。在二百四十壹次持球衝進敵方陣地。共佔得壹千二百五拾碼。為加之足球新紀錄。是星期六之比賽。亦乃林佐民君參與「故李 [sic] 銀杯全加冠軍決賽之第五次。據稱其母甚願他能早日離開球賽。因疑此等【欖】形足球。受傷甚易。但林君希望以目前代價。能繼【續】球賽三年。屆時當可執埋球靴矣。據点問頓隊某執事稱。佐民君每年球賽薪金約壹萬元。估計従球賽已得有五萬元薪金。而林君能將薪金部貯蓄。更爲難得。聞他已置有相當實業。開設運貨車生意。幷購新住宅為其父母居住。


Here is my draft translation:

“Chinese Football Star Acclaimed Throughout Canada: Lim Du Men Sets New Records”

This paper investigated into the Canadian Western Football Conference Champion Edmonton team. Teammates include a football star of Chinese descendent “Na Mei Gong” (transliteration of “Normie Kwong” using Chinese characters 那美廣). This newspaper explores all sides. In reality then he is the second eldest son named Du Men of a Calgary Overseas Chinese merchant Lim Gong Yeu, whose style name is Sun Ag. Sun Ag is a Toisan man. He is established in Calgary and operates a Chinese Western Region warehouse business. His [Normie’s] mother is Lee Lhui Hen the daughter of Mr. Lee Zen Men of Victoria. Because she loves to listen to the singing voice of the movie star Ed Powell, and when Powell had a son named “Normie,” his mother Lim Lhui Hen then took his Chinese name Lim Du Men and changed it to “Normie Kwong.” [3]

Du Men is in the football records, already lined up as the only Chinese to take up playing football as an occupation. And this year he established again unusual success. In 241 times carries of the ball rushing against enemy lines, his gained in total 1,250 yards for a new record in Canadian football. The match of this Saturday also is Lim Du Men’s fifth appearance in a Grey Cup all Canadian championship final. It is said his mother very much hopes that he can leave the ballgame soon, because she suspects this kind of football, suffering an injury is very easy. But Du Men according to present considerations hopes to be able to continue to play ball three years. When the time comes he will bury his football boots. According to the Edmonton team certain obligations are called for. Du Men’s annual ballgame salary is approximately $10,000. An estimate from ballgames already played, he has $50,000 in salaries. And Mr. Lim will be able to take part of the salary to save and invest. Even more difficult to do, it is well-known that he already put in place to a fair extent commercial enterprises, opening a transport freight truck business. At the same time he purchased a new residence for his father and mother to live in.

Mr. Lim is proficient in the empty fake ball carry, along with ball blocking skill. The Edmonton team last year in Toronto prevailed 26 points to 25 points over the Montreal team. And this year it finished as the Canadian Western Conference champions. It thus relied upon Mr. Lim’s strengths very much. He is acclaimed in the whole of Canada. Really it isn’t by chance, this stretches forward to the Toronto Star newspaper for raising charitable funds. Last year was the first time the Canadian Eastern versus Canadian Western all-star teams match was raised for discussion. This year it is scheduled to be held December 3rd in Toronto. Mr. Lim is already selected for the Canadian Western all-star team. We may expect Mr. Lim to be in Saturday’s final match. At that time he will display his talents. One who is in the circle of Overseas Chinese will go in person, or belonging to a minority, only may have a look-see from a facsimile, or listen to a broadcast station.


[1] In this article, I use Prof. Deng Jun’s Kaiping (Hoiping) romanization for Chinese names and I show these in italics. The exception being the surnames Lee (李) and Lim (林). These two surnames were common among the pre-1968 Chinese community in Canada and these localized spellings have entrenched themselves over more than a century history of the Lee and Lim clans in Canada. The Taishan (Toisan) dialect of Normie Kwong’s family background is very similar to the Kaiping dialect.

[2] The Chinese characters set between square brackets are those characters which are illegible in the original scanned image and I made my best guess at what they might be. If I can’t even make an educated guess, then the illegible character is represented by simply a pair of empty square brackets.

[3] The name of this alleged movie star in Chinese characters (迪跑路) is pronounced Ed Pao Lu in the Toisan dialect. I believe this is a transliteration of the English name Ed Powell. There was a music orchestrator in the movie industry of the 1930s named Edward B. Powell. More research needs to be done to verify this English name associated with the intended Chinese name.