Considered the first superstar in the American Hockey League, Les Cunninghamplayed 10 seasons in Cleveland and retired as the fledgling league’s career scoring leader.
After two seasons with the Buffalo Bisons of the International Hockey League – one of two leagues that merged to form the AHL in 1936 – Cunningham joined the Cleveland Falcons in 1936-37. The centerman won one Calder Cup with the re-named Barons in 1939, and then another in 1941 when he led the AHL in scoring with 64 points in 56 games. Cunningham also earned a spot on the Second All-Star Team that spring, his first of five consecutive postseason all-star berths.
In 1941-42, Cunningham was chosen to participate in the first AHL All-Star event, a charity game held in Cleveland to raise funds for the American and Canadian military efforts in World War II.
Cunningham established a career high in 1942-43 when he racked up 82 points in just 55 games, and in 1944-45 he led the Barons to a third Calder Cup title with 80 points in the regular season and 11 more in the playoffs.
Cunningham remained a team leader and fan favorite as capacity crowds continued to pack the Arena in Cleveland night in and night out. By the time he announced his retirement from the AHL in the summer of 1947, Cunningham had recorded 233 goals and 346 assists for 579 points in 519 games.
Prior to the 1947-48 season, the American Hockey League established the Les Cunningham Plaque, which for six decades has been presented annually to the league’s most valuable player.
A native of Calgary, Cunningham passed away in 1993 at the age of 79.
|Career AHL Statistics – Les Cunningham|