A Sarnian has reached a milestone in the Ontario Hockey League.
Leigh Cunningham, director of broadcasting and communications for the Saginaw Spirit, was behind the microphone for his 1,000th league broadcast when the Michigan team played the Sarnia Sting at the RBC Centre in late November.
The achievement dates back to the 1998-99 season and includes radio and television experience in North Bay, before that franchise relocated to Saginaw, as well as in London and Sarnia, where he handled play-by-play duties for the Sting on TVCOGECO.
“It was great that it happened in Sarnia,” said the graduate of the St. Helen’s elementary and St. Patrick’s High School.
“If it wasn’t in Saginaw, there is no other place I would have rather had it happen that in Sarnia.”
Cunningham said it special to share the accomplishment with friends in his hometown and thanked the Sting organization for its acknowledgment of the achievement on the scoreboard during the contest.
“This is a really great league and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said the 48-year-old. “I remember when I was the young guy in the league, but those days are gone now,” he said with a chuckle.
“The game has been my life ever since I was a little kid. And anyone who knows me in Sarnia would attest to that from collecting hockey cards and hockey magazines and discussing the game. So potentially moving into a broadcast position was always on my mind, even as a young kid.”
A career highlight was his involvement with the London Knights during their championship season in 2005-06, while the most difficult situation was the suicide of Spirit forward Terry Trafford late last season.
As for his hometown team, Cunningham is pleased the Sting appear to be benefitting from patience the franchise has shown the past couple seasons.
“A lot of their depth guys are really starting to complement the top-end guys, and of course they’re getting a great goaltending this season out of Taylor Dupuis,” he said.
“They’ve done it without some their marquee guys at times that have been away by suspension and injury, and they’re still hanging in there. And that’s the mark of a team that’s on the rise.”