Leigh Cunningham is set to call his 1,500th career OHL game on March 18/23 (Photo courtesy of Sarnia Sting)Leigh Cunningham is set to call his 1,500th career OHL game on March 18/23 (Photo courtesy of Sarnia Sting)

Cunningham marks broadcasting milestone with 1,500th OHL game

The voice of the Sarnia Sting on CHOK is about to call his 1,500th game in the Ontario Hockey League.

The milestone for Leigh Cunningham will come on Saturday when the Sting host the Kingston Frontenacs at Progressive Auto Sales Arena.

As usual, the Sarnia native will be doing the play by play, with co-host Patrick DesRochers providing the colour commentary.

"It's been a long journey, there's no doubt about it, with a lot of stops and a lot of great memories," said Cunningham. "What can I say? It's something I've wanted to do since I was a very young kid, and anybody that knows me best would certainly verify that. The game has kind of been everything to me since I was a young kid. You know, it's something that happens once, and I'll obviously cherish it. It's come with the help of an awful lot of people over the years. It's a nice moment for me and my family for sure."

Cunningham joked that he wasn't good enough to play hockey but still wanted to be involved in the sport he loves.

Leigh Cunningham prepares for a Sarnia Sting broadcast on CHOK (Photo courtesy of Sarnia Sting) Leigh Cunningham prepares for a Sarnia Sting broadcast on CHOK (Photo courtesy of Sarnia Sting)

"I knew that I liked to talk about the game," he said. "It was something that I just generally wanted to do. When I was young, I listened to Danny Gallivan and Bob Cole and Dan Kelly and broadcasters like that, it sparked something in me. I've been very, very privileged and fortunate to make it happen."

Cunningham's very first broadcast was with the London Knights on CJBK, alongside Pete James, on September 24, 1998 against the Spitfires at the old Windsor Arena.

He said he remembers it distinctly.

"It was my first year with the London Knights, it's a team that happened to go to game seven of the OHL championship that very first year against Belleville. Like I am before every game, you get that little surge of nerves and adrenaline and what not. It was the same that night, and likely will be on Saturday as well. Nothing has changed in between as far as that goes."

Cunningham said he's come a long way since then.

"I like to think that my pacing has become a little bit better," he said. "I think anytime you do something, and you have an experience, you channel that and try to shape that into your career whatever that may be. I don't like listening to myself, so it's hard that way. But, I think I've refined myself, let's call it that."

He said it's always a pleasure to work alongside former goalie Patrick DesRochers.

"With Patrick, we're friends first. I think that's one of the big things where Patty and I are concerned, we get along very well. His analysis is tremendous and it's always great to work with someone who has that background, to see a play and describe how it may have evolved. He's kind of the exes and ohs type, whereas I can talk about something that happened in the OHL back in 2003 if need be."

Cunningham's resume includes calling four OHL championship series, four conference finals and the OHL All-Star Classic.

He called the league's first outdoor game at Comerica Park in 2013.

Cunningham has also broadcasted Knights games on Rogers TV, and has done play by play for the Windsor Spitfires, North Bay Centennials, and Saginaw Spirit.

He held the role of Director of Broadcasting and Communications with the Spirit before joining the Sting at the start of the 2015-16 season.

CHOK Radio has been the voice of the Sarnia Sting since the team’s arrival from Newmarket in 1994-95.

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