Local teen sled hockey player makes it to world stage

Local sled hockey player to represent U.S.

A local sled hockey player, at 15 years old, will be on the world stage this weekend.

It will be Liam Cunningham’s second international trip with his new team — the teenager was recently called up to play for the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.

“I grew up a lot watching a lot of these guys,” Cunningham said. “[These are] the greatest players in the world, and going in I had nerves, [but] they really took me in like the younger brother on the team.”

Cunningham, who attends high school at Saint Thomas Academy, is the youngest on the team with a 23-year age gap from his oldest teammate.

The national sled hockey team is in Canada for the 2023 Para Hockey Cup — they’ll play the host team Canada, as well as China and the Czech Republic. In October, Cunningham made his first trip with the team, traveling to the Czech Republic, where he scored a goal.

When he’s not traveling the world, he’s lacing up his sled with Minnesota Wild Sled Hockey, where he got his start. 

“It’s absolutely incredible. In our sled hockey world, [Liam] made it to the big show,” Minnesota Wild Sled Hockey coach Tony Lang said.

Lang said he’s coached Cunningham since he was about 5.

“He’s very passionate. He plays very hard. He works very hard. He’s a well-rounded kid,” Lang said of Cunningham.

Lang says the sport is growing and the organization now has more than 50 players with some as young as 5. All players have conditions that prevent them from playing stand-up hockey.

“We just really focus on creating an environment where these young athletes, these kids, young adults, can to be their best,” Lang added.

And as Cunningham continues to play with the best in the world, he hopes to inspire others to lace up.

“Expose yourself to it, reach out, and have some fun,” Cunningham said.

The schedule for this week’s U.S. National Sled Hockey Team games with information on how to livestream them can be found here.