WINNIPEG – The sight of Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham being rushed off the ice on a stretcher will forever haunt Brenden Kichton.
For the Manitoba Moose defenceman, it wasn’t just an opposing player he saw in medical distress at the Tucson Convention Center on Saturday but a friend.
“I’ve never felt that sick,” said Kichton.
“When they were taking him off, compressing his chest, I felt like throwing up.”
Cunningham suffered an apparent heart attack just minutes before an AHL game against the Moose. The 26-year-old collapsed to the ice before having a seizure according to Tucson’s radio announcers. Paramedics were seen giving Cunningham CPR as they wheeled him to an ambulance.
The Arizona Coyotes, the NHL affiliate of the Roadrunners, told reporters Monday morning that Cunningham remains in hospital in critical condition but is stable.
Kichton got to know the Trail, B.C. product this summer while training in Phoenix. He calls Cunningham one of the good guys of hockey.
“He was just generally a happy person all the time,” said Kichton.
“On the ice, he always worked hard. He never took a shift off. He always had a smile on his face.”
Both teams returned to their locker rooms following the incident. A decision was eventually made to postpone the game to a later date.
Cunningham was named Tucson’s captain earlier this month. He has 13 points in 11 games with the Roadrunners this season. Cunningham has also played in 63 NHL games over three seasons with the Boston Bruins and Arizona Coyotes.