Raymond and Steven Liu understand the importance of sacrifice, generosity and giving back to a supportive community; they learned early from their parents.
On the hunt for a better life for their kids, Moon-Hung Liu and Sui-Kwan Liu emigrated from Hong Kong and chose Vancouver as their new home, taking part in a growing trend of Chinese families coming to Canada’s west coast in the 1970s, mostly from Hong Kong, Taiwan or Southeast Asia.
Uncertain of what this new frontier had in store for them, looking back, Raymond and Steven can only appreciate what their folks had achieved.
“We had great parents. They sacrificed their lifestyle to give us a better life,” said Raymond.
“Canada was [the best option].”
“There was better education and more opportunities,” said Steven.
With Steven being 16 and Raymond being the youngest of three brothers at only 10, emigrating was a bit of a shock. Terry, the oldest, was actually the first to come north to Prince Rupert from Vancouver when he got a job at the pulp mill, though it wasn’t easy to move away from a city that reminded them of home.
“We came from a big city so we liked Vancouver,” said Steven of his past two worldly residences.
“[Terry] and his friends moved here together … and then I really wasn’t doing anything and so I was going to come up and visit him. The next thing you know, I’ve ended up staying almost 40 years now,” said Steven.
The three brothers opened a restaurant, the Imperial Palace, and ran the establishment for 15 years before selling it. It was through the restaurant that Raymond and Steven discovered the sponsorship opportunities that came with owning a business in Rupert.
“We sponsored bowling, basketball teams, soccer and quite a few sports,” said Steven.
Terry’s family has moved back to Hong Kong, while Raymond and Steven continue to be two of the most frequent faces seen at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre on a daily basis from the 1980s until today.
“I was the first student at [Master Paul Bozman’s old] Taekwondo club,” said Steven.
“I was the first one who signed up for the class … and we started off in the [upstairs] Judo Room and then gradually came down to the big room when we had over 90 kids.”
“We spread ourselves out in different areas. I started [coaching] in minor hockey and Steven started in Taekwondo. Terry played in Old-timers [hockey],” said Raymond.
The Liu brothers eventually had children of their own and they were quick to get just as involved as their parents and uncles.
“He’s the good uncle,” said Steven of Raymond.
“He looks after my kids and Terry’s kids and usually takes them to hockey practice and stuff like that too.”
Adrian, Steven’s son who is now 31 and a Canadian global badminton star, actually got his start in hockey before he took a liking to badminton and Raymond was one of the driving forces for starting the “Initiation” hockey program for kids aged four to six in an A or B level beginners’ school.
The Lius tried their hand at badminton later on in Prince Rupert after a certain special event piqued their interest.
“We played badminton in Hong Kong before too, but we’d just rally and have fun and enjoy the game. Afterwards [in 1999], we had the Northern B.C. Winter Games in Rupert and Adrian was getting more into badminton,” explained Steven.
“There were a couple [high-ranking] coaches that started a team … me, Ray and Adrian got our coaching certificate and then we’d put our time into it and get more serious. That’s how we started teaching the junior badminton.”
At one point, the Lius were just part of dozens and dozens of participants who formed their own clubs and leagues while Rupert’s population was higher. After the spike in numbers, the totals began to drop off. It wasn’t until 2010 that history would repeat itself and the Northern B.C. Winter Games, once again held in Rupert, would attract a whole new audience to the clubs at the civic centre.
Steven and Raymond got more competitive the more they learned about the sport – one of the fastest in the world.
“Badminton’s not just about hitting a birdie back and forth … the techniques and strategies [are quite deep],” said Steven who added the velocity of a smashed birdie can reach as high as 400 kilometres per hour for some of the top players.
Along with the racquet sport, Raymond runs floor hockey at the civic centre and both brothers operate Tai Chi on Friday nights, an ancient Chinese discipline involving a series of slow movements designed to improve physical and mental well-being. It is something they originally thought wouldn’t garner much attention, especially on the eve of the weekend.
“We were helping the Chinese association with it when the rec coordinator [at the time] told us Tai Chi would be a good thing for the civic centre,” said Steven.
“Three or four years ago, it started on Friday nights but Fridays can be hard – people have commitments. But the first time we put it out, we had over 30 people sign up,” said Raymond.
The brothers teach “24-form” Tai Chi, which is a style taught all over the world, so even if one doesn’t speak the language in Korea, Japan or China, they can jump right in with the movements that they’ve been taught in Prince Rupert.
Mostly, for the siblings, it’s all about giving back to the city that they say has been so kind to them through their exploits with the restaurant and beyond.
“Everyone was so good to us, that’s why we wanted to give back to the community. We try to coach and we always found [the best part about being a part of sports] was seeing the kids scoring their first goal and achieving a better level,” said Raymond.