Beloved former Vancouver Giant in critical but stable condition after on-ice collapse
'All these struggles he's had his whole life have prepared him to get through'
A former Vancouver Giants captain, who, according to the team's owner, is liked and respected even by his opponents, is in critical but stable condition after an on-ice collapse over the weekend.
Craig Cunningham was set to play for the American Hockey League's Tucson Roadrunners Saturday. But before the game began, the 26-year-old collapsed on the ice and began to convulse.
He was rushed to hospital and remains critically ill, although the specific cause of his collapse is still unknown, according to Roadrunners general manager Doug Soetaert.
He calls Cunningham an unbelievable young man.
"It's very tragic and [his condition's impact on the team is] going to take some time to heal."
The Roadrunners have postponed their next two games while staff and players do just that.
A highly respected player, thoughts and well wishes for Cunningham have been pouring in from across the NHL, where he's played for the Arizona Coyotes and the Boston Bruins.
Former Giant respected, well liked
"He was one of those guys that made everybody better around him just from the way he worked," said Giants owner Ron Toigo of Cunningham's five years with the team.
He describes the Trail, B.C. native as a player who succeeds as a result of relentless effort, which endeared him to fans, teammates, even his opponents.
"No matter what team you're playing against, there's a bunch of the guys from the other team talking to him during warm-up," Toigo said.
Cunningham's work ethic has carried him through adversity since a young age. He was raised by a single mother. His father died when he was still in grade school.
At 16, no minor team would draft him. The Giants decided to sign Cunningham after he proved himself in a tryout.
Toigo says he was quickly made captain of the team because of his leadership ability and jack-of-all-trades skill set.
'Everybody wants to be around him'
"He's just got that unique ability that once you meet him, everybody wants to be around him," he said. "He can talk to the players in a way the coaches can't."
He had such support from his team that when the Giants were asked to select a player to carry the Vancouver 2010 Olympic torch across the Lions Gate Bridge, they chose Cunningham.
"It was because of all the things he's been through in his life and how he persevered to get to where he's at, and it was a thrill for him, an honour for him. He brought his mom down from Trail to be part of it," Toigo said.
"He's in the fight of his life, and I think all these struggles he's had his whole life have prepared him to get through this, and we're all praying for him."