NHL amputee returns to ice with prosthetic leg, custom skate

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If you need your daily dose of positivity, look no further than former professional hockey player Craig Cunningham. Less than three years after he nearly died on the ice, Cunningham was back on skates on Wednesday. 

Three years ago, the 28-year-old collapsed on the ice before he was ready to play for the Tucson Roadrunners against the Manitoba Moose in an American Hockey League game. According to Sports Illustrated, Cunningham suffered a heart attack that left him without a beating heart for two days.

The Canadian athlete received a specialized procedure and advanced life-saving therapy, only to be given more bad news: an infection, caused by circulation issues, would require him to have his left leg amputated right before Christmas in 2016. 

Still, even after the amputation, Cunningham has remained an active member of the hockey world and is now working on getting his on-ice skills back with the help of his custom-made prosthetic.

The prosthetic was made using a Tuuk blade, which is normally found at the bottom of a skate boot. The skate allows him to move more freely on the ice, from performing crossover turns to even skating backward.

“Every time I think about how I can’t play anymore, I just think back to [the fact that] I’m lucky I’m not ten feet under,” Cunningham told ESPN’s Craig Custance in January 2017. “If I have to sacrifice playing hockey to be alive — and it’s a tough pill to swallow for sure, it’s been my whole life since I was four years old — it’s time for me to move on.”

While his playing career ended after only 63 games, Cunningham, who previously played in the National Hockey League and the AHL, returned to the professional leagues as a scout for the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

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