ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The American Hockey League honoured Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham at its All-Star Game on Monday night, with players wearing his No. 14 during warmups.
Cunningham, 26, collapsed on the ice before a game Nov. 19 and required advanced procedures to save his life. His hockey career is over, but he survived thanks to Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation and a new procedure developed by an Arizona doctor that helped his heart.
AHL president and CEO David Andrews said Monday morning the league wanted to bring Cunningham to All-Star weekend but couldn’t because of travel restrictions. A video tribute to Cunningham played during the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament, and the No. 14 jerseys will be auctioned off to support AHL charities.
"It’s a classy move by the AHL," Roadrunners teammate Christian Fischer said while smiling at the No. 14 jerseys hung around the locker room. "Craig probably saw it on social media, he’s probably smiling. It’s a pretty nice tribute from the whole league, I think. As the Roadrunners we can’t thank them enough for doing that, and obviously Craig he deserves it all. He’s been fighting hard."
Quick work by medics on the scene at Tucson Arena and care at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson is credited with keeping Cunningham alive. He had to have part of his left leg amputated, but is rehabilitating and is around the team on occasion despite no longer being able to play.
"He comes into the rink every once in a while before the game or even practices," teammate Kyle Wood said. "It’s awesome to see that he’s doing good, and it always lifts our spirits to see him at the rink."
Cunningham, who was named Tucson captain two weeks before he collapsed, appeared in 63 NHL games for the Boston Bruins and Arizona Coyotes. Andrews said he hopes Cunningham still has a career in hockey if that’s what he wants.
"He’s a strong guy," Andrews said. "It’ll be a good outcome in the end for him. But it’s a sad story. He’s a terrific hockey player and a guy in the prime of his career, to have that happen for reasons that no one understands yet what caused it, but he’s got our support and he’s got the support of his players’ association and we’re hoping he has as good a recovery as he can have."