Craig Cunningham’s comeback story took another step Wednesday, when the former Tucson Roadrunners captain was hired as a pro scout with the Arizona Coyotes organization.
Cunningham, who suffered a cardiac rhythm disturbance before a Roadrunners game in November that led to an early retirement, signed a two-year contract with the organization. His duties will include scouting and player development within the Coyotes franchise.
Cunningham, speaking at a press conference at Tucson Arena, said that he considered the club’s offer for a few months. He met with the team last week, where the two sides discussed players and ways to grow the organization.
“I think it’s going to be a bit of a learning process for me to start,” Cunningham said. “Everyone has their own philosophy of doing things, and you have to figure it out for yourself as you go.”
Cunningham’s responsibilities fall under scouting the western region as well as working with younger players on the Roadrunners roster.
Cunningham said he will start by listening to veteran scouts within the organization. The Coyotes are sending Cunningham to next month’s NHL Entry Draft in Chicago, where he’ll be able to interact with the team’s entire staff.
Cunningham lost part of his left leg last December due to complications during his recovery. The 26-year-old Cunningham will try to use his youth to his advantage in his new venture.
“I know most of the guys in the league,” Cunningham said. “That goes a long way when you’re trying to scout guys and find the right mix of players.”
Cunningham said he will stay in Tucson for the time being before eventually making his way back to his native Canada.
In many ways, Wednesday’s news was a dream come true. Cunningham had long thought about becoming a scout when his playing days were over.
“I always wondered what I would do,” Cunningham said. “As us major junior (hockey) guys who didn’t go to college, you don’t have a degree to fall back on, so it’s a great way to stay employed and stay in the organization and the game.”
Cunningham took the ice wearing a prosthesis before a Coyotes game in Glendale last month.
“It felt great,” Cunningham said. “Now with prosthetics, the technology is so good these days that it really gives you life without limitations.”
Cunningham said that his rehab has gone well except for a setback in the last few weeks.
“I was pushing things a little bit too hard,” Cunningham said.
“It’s obviously been a long time of not being able to get around. I’m pretty excited about moving around and getting back to normal. But I’m going to kind of ease back into things a little bit now.”