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Exemplifying Excellence

Senior Defenseman Hamish Cunning Talks About His Life and Career at Rensselaer

By Erika S. Lewis

Game Program, January 3, 2002

Senior defenseman Hamish Cunning has come a long way since he first stepped into Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Houston Field House in the fall of 1998. Over the past three years he has become one of the cornerstones of the Engineers defense, as well as excelling in the classroom.

"Hamish is a model student athlete," said head coach Dan Fridgen. It is clear to RPI's eighth year mentor that Cunning has the knowledge to succeed in his life after Rensselaer.

Cunning began playing hockey at the age of four and admits that as a child growing up in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, he was more interested in watching Saturday morning cartoons than going to the rink. "My mom would have to drag me out of bed to go to practice," said Cunning. His outlook would soon change. He played for five years in his hometown before his parents began to drive him an hour, four times a week, to practice for his new AA team. This was the first step for him in developing his skills and began his journey to become an Engineer.

At the age of 15, Hamish began a three year stint playing for the Ottawa Jr. Senators. With the ongoing support of his parents, he traveled for the first two seasons with the Senators as he had done with the AA team the previous six years.

In his third season with the Senators, Cunning began his career in higher education, taking classes part time at Ottawa University. This move to take classes while playing hockey would soon pay off.

"Two years prior, Coach Fridgen had come to see me play and when he came back to scout me a second time he offered me a scholarship," Cunning said. "Clarkson was talking to me at the same time but RPI showed more interest and that was refreshing. I have always dreamed of getting a hockey scholarship and there was my opportunity."

Cunning admits that at the start of his career at RPI, playing collegiately was a big transition for him. "The college game is much faster, without a red line, and I had to become less of an offensive minded defenseman."

Fridgen agrees, adding, "Hamish has become a real consistent and intense player. His intelligence on the ice is key."

Cunning played in 16 games as a freshman, earning two points (1 goal, 1 assist). Half of those games were ECAC contests. During his sophomore season, he played in 11 games, tallying two assists and two penalty minutes. Cunning played in a career high 29 games last year, including the final 23, posting four assists and 14 penalty minutes. In 19 ECAC contests, he collected three assists and eight penalty minutes.

During his first three seasons, Cunning, a management major, was named to the ECAC All Academic Team twice and last year won the team's Scholar Athlete Award, presented to the player with the highest grade point average. These honors demonstrate Hamish's ability to integrate different aspects of his life while keeping his sights set on the person he wants to become.

His roommate and teammate, senior captain Steve Munn, is impressed with Hamish's accomplishments, especially in the classroom.

"He is real intelligent, more so than a lot of people may realize," Munn said. "He is not real flashy but we need him on the team because he is rock steady and counted on for great defense."

Munn, who spends time with the Cunnings during the holidays, is also appreciative of the persona Hamish is. He considers his roommate "one of the family."

Family is what Cunning considers his entire team to be. "We all get along real well and have since I got here," he said. Hamish is especially proud of the team this season, in starting the new training program, which is led by assistant coach Frank McKeon. "We are in the best shape we can be and that is real helpful in a game situation."

Hamish, who says that he owes a lot to his parents for him being at RPI, is not sure what he wants to do after his career as an Engineer. "I hope to continue playing hockey in the minors."

Coach Fridgen notes that "much of what happens to players after they leave depends on how well the team does towards the end of the season. If we do well in the playoffs, that opens more avenues for the seniors because there are lots of scouts there watching."

"I want to keep all of my options open, including coaching," Cunning conveyed. "I always looked up to my coaches because they told me that I could go far in hockey. I want to be that person to a kid."

"Whatever he decides to do, he will do it well and be successful," Munn said. Whether it be as a professional hockey player, coach, a career using his degree or working at his dad's dairy farm (although he does not think so), Hamish Cunning will leave his mark wherever his journey takes him, just as he has left his mark at Rensselaer.