Arizona Rubber

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Roadrunners captain Cunningham on the road to recovery

 

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The hockey world stopped and watched and then offered thoughts and prayers on Nov. 19.

Just prior to the American Hockey League (AHL) game at the Tucson Convention Center between the Tucson Roadrunners and Manitoba Moose, Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham collapsed on the ice before medics rushed to his aid, performing chest compressions.

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The AHL postponed the contest.

The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, the Roadrunners’ parent club, issued a statement later that night that confirmed the 26-year-old Cunningham suffered “a medical emergency.”

Tucson later postponed the club’s games on Nov. 22 and Nov. 23.

“I think it was a very good decision for everybody to take a deep breath, to really take in what’s going on, to try to move on a little bit,” Roadrunners coach Mark Lamb told the Roadrunners website. “You know, time – everyday, time heals a little bit. It was pretty emotional what happened. It happened in front of everybody’s eyes, everybody saw it, so a couple of days – it’s just a game, and this is a life situation. It’s two games, we’ll be better for it. The league’s been good, the other teams have been good, they’re all on the same page as we are, so I think that’s very important.

“It’s a real tough thing that happened, ‘Cunny’ being in the hospital and everything, how it happened. It’s been a very emotional time for everybody, but I think everything’s on the up and up. Cunny’s in stable condition, and he’s getting great help. He’s been getting great help right from the start. We’re all praying for him (and) we’re doing the best we can. We’re a team here, he’s the leader of our team, and we want to stick together and do it for him.”

CunnyCanEdmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic, one of Cunningham’s close friends, told NHL.com that Cunningham is “heading in the right direction, but obviously, there’s a lot more progression and healing to be done.”

Cunningham was released from the hospital just before Christmas and stated his playing days are most likely over.

Cunningham served as captain of the AHL’s Springfield Falcons during the 2015-16 season, posting 22 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He retained the role as captain of the team after the Falcons were sold and relocated to Tucson this past spring.

In the Roadrunners’ inaugural game, on the road Oct. 14 against the San Diego Gulls, Cunningham scored the franchise’s first two goals in team history with the first one on a power play 2:17 into the second period at the Valley View Casino Center. He also assisted on a Kyle Wood goal, but Tucson lost the game 5-3.

Tucson forward Chris Mueller also told the Roadrunners website that Cunningham is “a lifelong friend.”

“It’s amazing how small the hockey world is, how strong it is,” Mueller said. “If you didn’t even know Craig, or who the person was that was hurt, you support them, just because you know what we go through. We’re a very close-knit athletic family, and 99.9 percent of the hockey players I know or play against are good people. There’s one or two guys on every team that you’re always going to talk to, that you love, that you gravitate toward, and Cunny’s one of those guys.

“That’s what you see on all the social media, guys saying ‘he’s my best friend,’ and it’s true. It’s not just because he’s in a difficult situation, he is that special of a person. There’s a reason why every single guy on our team voted him captain – it’s a special privilege, and he earned every single guy’s vote because of the person he is. He deserves everything he’s getting, and he’s a beautiful person. He really is.”

Photo/Phillip Brents

— Matt Mackinder