Former Coyotes forward Craig Cunningham returns to the ice

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The sight of Craig Cunningham back on the ice skating after everything he’s been through would have brought a smile to even the most hardened faces.

It’s been roughly two-and-a-half years since Cunningham collapsed to the ice prior to a game between his Tucson Roadrunners, a team he captained, and the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. He had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to hospital, leaving him in critical condition after his heart stopped beating for nearly 90 minutes.

Hooked up to a ventilator and bleeding from his lungs, Cunningham’s mother Heather Cunningham was certain of he son’s fate.

“I watched my son die right in front of my eyes,” she told to the Arizona Daily Star in an incredible piece a month after the incident. “There was no doubt in my mind. I thought he was gone. From the minute he hit the ice I could tell there was something not right. The waiting was awful. It was the worst. The doctors coming, going, not coming back. Every time they enter the room, you’re like, ‘Is he still here or he didn’t make it?’ It was horrifying.”

(The Arizona Daily Star story goes in-depth, including not-often-used techniques to save Cunningham’s life)

Craig defied the odds. He’d end up losing his left leg in the process, a result of the heart attack that nearly killed him.

And it’s his story that makes the following video that much more incredible:

That’s the former Boston Bruins and Arizona Coyotes player working on his crossover step as he skates in a figure-eight pattern with his prosthetic leg. If you scroll over in the Instagram post you can see the skate attachment that he wore.

Cunningham’s caption to the video thanked the AHL’s San Diego Gulls for the ice time.

“Only 365 days until next season,” he wrote.

Cunningham’s stride looks fantastic, and he even made a nice cut in the video.

Skating backward, however?

“I still can’t skate backwards,” he said.

In due time.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck