Cunningham in 2014
September 13, 1990|
Trail, British Columbia, Canada
|Height||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)|
|Weight||189 lb (86 kg; 13 st 7 lb)|
97th overall, 2010|
Craig Alvin Cunningham (born September 13, 1990) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey centre who played with the Boston Bruins and Arizona Coyotes in the National Hockey League (NHL). He was selected by the Boston Bruins, 97th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, before being called up to the Bruins in December 2013.
During his junior Western Hockey League (WHL) career, he won a Memorial Cup with the Vancouver Giants as a rookie in 2007 and was named to the WHL West First All-Star Team in 2010. He left the Giants as the team's all-time games played leader.
Cunningham played 63 NHL games across both the Bruins and Coyotes before being forced to prematurely retire in late 2016 due to health problems. Cunningham currently serves as a pro scout for the Coyotes, as well as assists in player development.
Cunningham was selected into the Western Hockey League (WHL) 129th overall by the Vancouver Giants in the 2005 WHL Bantam Draft. He began his major junior career with the Giants in 2006–07, recording five assists over 48 games as a rookie. He then appeared in 15 WHL playoff games en route to a President's Cup and Memorial Cup with the Giants as WHL and Canadian Hockey League (CHL) champions. Over the next two seasons, he improved to 25- and 50-point campaigns.
Entering his fourth WHL season with the Giants in 2009–10, Cunningham quickly moved up the Giants depth chart as former teammates Evander Kane and James Wright made their respective NHL teams. He was placed on the top line centring team captain Lance Bouma and Brendan Gallagher. Finishing the season with a junior career-high 97 points (37 goals and 60 assists), he ranked first in team scoring and sixth in the league. The total was also the second-highest for a Giants player in a single-season, coming 18 points short of Casey Pierro-Zabotel's record, set the previous year. He was nominated for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as WHL Player of the Year, losing to Eastern Conference nominee Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats. Cunningham was also named to the WHL West First All-Star Team as a unanimous selection, along with Giants teammate Kevin Connauton.
In game two of the opening round of the 2010 WHL playoffs, Cunningham recorded a five-point game (two goals and three assists) in a 6–3 win over the Kamloops Blazers. Two days later, on March 22, 2010, he was named the WHL Player of the Week, finish with four goals and seven points in two games. Two weeks later, on April 5, he received his second Player of the Week honour with three goals and three assists in the first two games of the second round against the Portland Winterhawks. The Giants advanced to the semifinals against the Tri-City Americans, but lost in six games. Cunningham finished the playoffs with 12 goals and 24 points over 16 games.
During the off-season, Cunningham was ranked 108th among North American skaters for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (his second draft-eligible year) by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. He was drafted in the fourth round (97th overall) by the Boston Bruins.
On July 14, 2011, Cunningham signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins. During training camp, he was assigned to Boston's minor league affiliate, the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL). Returning to junior, he was chosen as the Giants' new team captain, replacing Bouma, who had turned professional. Through 36 games, Cunningham had recorded 10 goals and 45 points. Suffering through several injuries as a team, the Giants struggled in comparison to previous years. Leading up to the WHL trade deadline, the top-ranked Portland Winterhawks inquired about acquiring Cunningham to bolster their line-up for a deep playoff run. General manager Scott Bonner sought Cunningham's approval before finalizing the trade on December 28, 2010.
Cunningham was sent to Portland, along with a sixth round pick in the 2011 Bantam Draft, in exchange for Spencer Bennett, Teal Burns, a first round pick in the 2011 Bantam Draft and a second round pick in the 2012 Bantam Draft. In dealing away their captain, Giants head coach Don Hay recalled "I think the fans thought were giving up on the season by trading Craig." He left the Giants as the team's all-time leader in regular season games played with 295, having surpassed Mitch Bartley's mark of 285 contests earlier in the season. He quickly became a fan favourite in Portland earning himself the nickname "The Hamster" due to his small stature but tenacious spirit and leadership on the ice. Cunningham finished the season with 17 goals and 42 points over 35 games with the Winterhawks. During the playoffs, he added 7 goals and 21 points over 21 games, as the Winterhawks were eliminated in the Finals.
In the 2013–14 season, Cunningham was called up to the Bruins for the first time on December 16, 2013. On December 17, 2013, he made his NHL debut with the Bruins. He finished the game against the Calgary Flames with four shots on net in 8:16 of ice time.
In the following 2014–15 season, on December 13, 2014, Cunningham scored his first NHL goal, a shorthanded goal against the Ottawa Senators. On March 2, 2015, Cunningham was placed on waivers and claimed by the Arizona Coyotes.
During the 2015–16 season, he primarily played in the AHL appearing in 61 games for the Springfield Falcons, tallying 46 points. He was recalled throughout the campaign to appear in 10 games with the Coyotes. On June 16, 2016, the Coyotes re-signed Cunningham to a one-year, two-way deal.
After attending the Coyotes 2016 training camp and pre-season, Cunningham was reassigned to AHL affiliate the Tucson Roadrunners, to begin their inaugural season in the 2016–17 season. In leading the Roadrunners offensively, Cunningham was selected to serve as the club's first captain on November 2, 2016. Cunningham collected 4 goals and 13 points in just 11 games before suffering his on-ice collapse and effectively ending his professional career. On March 25, 2017, four-months after his collapse, Cunningham returned to the Roadrunners ice and was honored in delivering the ceremonial puck drop in a contest against the San Jose Barracuda. Nearing the completion of the season, Cunningham was awarded the prestigious Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award, given to the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.
Health issues and recovery
On November 19, 2016, he was hospitalized after collapsing on the ice during a pre-game skate prior to a Tucson Roadrunners contest against the Manitoba Moose in Tucson, Arizona. Cunningham suffered an acute cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation, causing his heart to stop beating and requiring 85 minutes of continual CPR in which an on ice medical team and staff at St. Mary's Hospital and Banner-University Medical Center effectively saved his life. In his recovery he later addressed the media about the incident and his condition on December 21, 2016. After developing an infection due to circulation problems from his cardiac arrest, his lower left leg was amputated on December 24, 2016.
On June 12, 2017, Cunningham's story was featured on ESPN's SC Featured: "Craig Cunningham Chooses Life Over Limb". Cunningham was reported to have made an extraordinary recovery following the amputation and is shown in the video returning to skating on the ice.
On May 24, 2017, the Coyotes signed Cunningham to a two-year contract as a pro scout. Cunningham will also assist in player development. On August 16, 2017, it was revealed the Roadrunners would retire Cunningham's No. 14 in a ceremony prior to the team's game on October 27 against the Iowa Wild.
Awards and honours
|Player of the Week – March 14, March 28||2010|||
|West First All-Star Team||2010|||
|Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award||2017|||
- "Craig Cunningham named WHL Western Conference Player of the Year". Western Hockey League. 2010-04-15. Archived from the original on April 18, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-16.
- Adam Kimmelman (2009-10-10). "Connolly stands out among WHL's draft prospects". National Hockey League. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- "Craig Cunningham". New York Rangers. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- "Rangers taking 22 prospects to Traverse City". New York Rangers. 2009-08-24. Archived from the original on 2010-01-09. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- Jeff Paterson (2009-12-17). "Fast rising Craig Cunningham leads Giants to the net". Georgia Straight. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- "Top Scorers – 2009–10 Regular Season – All Players". Western Hockey League. Archived from the original on 2010-04-02. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- "Franchise All-Time Points Per Season". EliteProspects.com. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "Regina's Eberle named WHL player of the year". The Sports Network. 2010-04-28. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- "WHL Announces 2009–10 Conference Award Finalists and All-Star Teams". Western Hockey League. 2010-03-18. Archived from the original on February 27, 2015. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- Steve Ewen (2010-03-21). "Vancouver sails past Kamloops". The Province. Archived from the original on March 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- "Vancouver Giants' Craig Cunningham Named Boston Pizza WHL Player of the Week". OurSports Central. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- "Giants' Craig Cunningham Named Boston Pizza WHL Player of the Week". Western Hockey League. 2010-04-05. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2010-04-05.
- "2010 CSB Final Rankings". The Sports Network. Retrieved 2010-04-16.
- "Bruins sign McQuaid to three-year contract extension". Fox News. 2011-07-14.
- Beseda, Jim (2011-05-08). "WHL Championship series: Craig Cunningham an important "piece of the puzzle" for Winterhawks". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "Franchise All-Time Games Played". EliteProspects.com. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "Craig Cunningham: Future Second or Third Line NHLer". bruins.nhl.com. 2011-08-15. Retrieved 2014-12-29.
- "B's Recall Craig Cunningham". Boston Bruins. 2013-12-16. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
- "Bruins lose Craig Cunningham via Coyotes waiver claim". CBS Sports. 2015-03-02. Retrieved 2015-03-02.
- "Cunningham named Roadrunners captain". Tucson Roadrunners. 2016-11-02. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
- "Craig Cunningham honored at Tucson Roadrunners game". Arizona Daily Star. 2017-03-25. Retrieved 2017-03-25.
- "Roadunners Captain Craig Cunningham wins AHL award". Arizona Daily Star. 2017-04-07. Retrieved 2017-04-07.
- "Former Giant player Craig Cunningham in hospital following on ice collapse". Global News. 2016-11-20. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
- "Tucson Roadrunners Craign Cunningham recovery a miracle". AZ Central. 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
- "Tucson captain Cunningham collapses on ice before AHL game". Yahoo Sports Canada. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
- "Milan Lucic is praying for his buddy Craig Cunningham". Edmonton Journal. 2016-11-26. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
- "Transcript: Craig Cunningham Press Conference". 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
- "Ex-NHLer Craig Cunningham makes amazing progress after leg amputation". FOX Sports. FOX Sports. 2017-03-09. Retrieved 2017-03-31.
- "SC Featured: Craig Cunningham' chooses life over limb - ESPN Video". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2017-06-13.
- "Coyotes add Cunningham as pro scout". Arizona Coyotes. 2017-05-24. Retrieved 2017-05-24.
- "Craig Cunningham number retired with Coyotes AHL team". Sportsnet.ca. 2017-08-16. Retrieved 2017-08-16.