A charter member of the Calgary Inferno, dating back to its Team Alberta roots, Jenna Cunningham is more than just one of the club’s all-time greats; she is one of its ambassadors. Having carved a legacy which includes sitting on top of the Team Alberta/Calgary career scoring list, the opportunity to compete in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game was another memorable milestone.
In discussing her reaction upon being selected for the historic game, Cunningham observes the big picture, looking at the inspiring journey upon which the league has ascended.
“When I found out I was selected I was extremely excited to be a part of the first CWHL All-Star Game. Mainly because it was an opportunity to not only participate with all of the skilled players in our league, but to witness first-hand how much our league has grown.”
Contested at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on December 13, 2014, it actually marked the second time that Cunningham competed at the hallowed arena. In November 2012, Cunningham and Team Alberta had the opportunity to compete in the first-ever CWHL regular season game contested in an NHL arena. Held at the ACC, the club competed against the Toronto Furies.
This second opportunity to compete on ACC ice would bring with it a much different complexion. With the rosters of Team Red and Team White featuring players from all franchises, teammates suddenly became rivals for one day.
Coincidentally, Tessa Bonhomme, who competed in that November 2012 contest with the Furies, became one of Cunningham’s teammates for the Team Red roster. While Inferno teammates such as Brittany Esposito, Haley Irwin and Delayne Brian were adorned in the Team White jerseys, it was an opportunity to share in the chance to celebrate a unique chapter in league history,
“To be able to experience something like the ASG with my teammates was very special. We had such a diverse group of players go that represented the many different types of players we have in our league. To have such a strong representation of skill, leadership, CWHL experience, and new players allowed for us to really showcase what the CWHL has to offer. Each of my inferno teammates were well deserving of the honor and it is a memory I will have forever.”
Of note, the All-Star experience for Cunningham encompassed more than just the game itself. Beginning with the December 12 Frozen Fantasy Draft, it was a chance for players, coaches and volunteers to know each other off the ice, while getting the chance to meet with dignitaries such as “Hurricane” Hazel McCallion.
Following a post-game dinner on December 13, players and coaches were able to see the Toronto Maple Leafs compete against the Detroit Red Wings on the same ice that they graced earlier in the day. Complemented by a visit to the Hockey Night in Canada set, it provided an unforgettable weekend that will be cherished for many years.
Having absorbed all of these remarkable events, Cunningham reflected on it with more than just contentment. One of the aspects that provided her with great fulfillment was the fact that it helped showcase the league in a new and exciting dimension, ensuring that its potential can be reached,
“To be honest, as someone who has been playing for Calgary since its inaugural season, having the opportunity to see the true growth of the CWHL and the support we have, from so many sponsors and individuals was extremely rewarding. I obviously enjoyed getting to play with the other players in the league, but being able to talk to them about the CWHL and where we envision it going was positive and encouraging, and just as exciting as playing in front of all the fans.”
Heading into the All-Star Break, Cunningham ranks fourth in league scoring, while teammates Rebecca Johnston and Haley Irwin are first and second, respectively. Her best performances are composed of a pair of three-point games, including a hat trick (plus a power play tally) against Brampton on October 19.
This was followed by a November 23 three assist output against Brampton which extended the club’s winning streak to five games. As a side note, the Inferno boasts an undefeated mark this season when Cunningham has a multi-point performance.
With one more point, Cunningham will add another special accomplishment to her storied career. Having accumulated 49 career points, Cunningham will become the first player in Team Alberta/Calgary franchise history to reach 50 points.
Taking into account the off-season acquisitions of Irwin, Johnston and Bailey Bram, plus the drafting of Brittany Esposito and Sarah Davis, the franchise has experienced an offensive renaissance. Surrounded by such talent, there is no question that Cunningham’s presence helps make everyone’s game that much better,
“We were very fortunate to bring in a lot of offensive talent in the offseason which has translated into a strong offensive game. In the past we have had to really focus on the defensive parts of our game and as a forward it has been really fun to see success in the offensive zone. It is always fun when your team is scoring goals, and developing chemistry. It is hard not to be excited by our offensive performance so far.”
“All other quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”