Card of the Week: Trophy Boy

1939-40 O-Pee-Chee Les Cunningham RC

78_les_cunninghamLes Cunningham had a brief NHL career, totaling just 60 games over two seasons. But he was such a prolific scorer in the American Hockey League that the league named their MVP trophy after him.

This oversized card, measuring 5″ x 7″, is part of the 1939-40 V30-1 Hockey set, believed to be made by O-Pee-Chee. That year, Cunningham played 37 games for the Chicago Black Hawks, and was included in the 100-card set.

Though his time in the NHL wasn’t that notable, Cunningham really made his mark on pro hockey with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL. He was considered the league’s first superstar and was the all-time leading scorer when he left the AHL after the 1946-47 season. According to the AHL Hall of Fame website:

“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.”

Starting in 1947-48, the AHL gave the Les Cunningham Award to the league’s most valuable player. Cunningham was also inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2009.

I bought this card from two dealer that I am friends with (thanks Diane and Paul) who specialize in Chicago and Pittsburgh hockey collectibles. I had no idea that this player was an AHL legend;; I just knew it was an old card and of a Black Hawks player.

This may very well be the only photo of Cunningham in the NHL, or at the very least with the Black Hawks. His Beehive photo uses the same picture. There is no photo of Cunningham in the book  “The Chicago Blackhawks: A Sixty Year History” either. Strange, since that book pictures just about everyone who played in the Windy City from 1926 to 1986, including the bit players. Yet, no photo or mention, other than a line of stats, about the man who went on to become a minor-league legend.

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

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