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 John Cunningham-  (New Hartford 1979-2014)

John Carson Cunningham was born Utica, New York and raised and schooled in New Hartford, N.Y.

 Baseball and Ice hockey were the two sports John played as a youngster, although he did not play organized hockey till middle school, under John Slater. His hockey experience till then was backyard rinks and following the high school team around to practice and games. He went on to captain the New Hartford Spartans in his senior season, when he as the team’s leading scorer and league all-star.

 Carson attended Herkimer Community College, majoring in Physical Education, and it was there that the dream of mentoring and coaching kids was instilled by the excellent facility.  He also played hockey in local adult leagues and for adult travel teams which took on semi-pro and amateur teams across the Northeast. His next stop was SUNY Cortland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. His hockey experience at Cortland was bittersweet. He learned from and admired head coach Forbes Keith, but only participated one semester as a player. He then had an excellent student teaching experience at Skaneateles High School under soccer coach Al Kise and hockey coach Jake Lovier that only strengthened the coaching desire.

 He returned to New Hartford and was asked to coach track, football, gymnastics, baseball and yes – ice hockey at his alma mater, becoming Hall of Fame coach Paul Swancott’s assistant in 1979.

 With “Swanny”, John not only learned the ins and outs of coaching high school kids, but was in the forefront of organizing what is now the New State Public High School Ice Hockey Championships. Paul was the first State Hockey Chairman, and John was his assistant there as well. For 11 seasons John was Paul’s right hand man in every facet of high school hockey at New Hartford and in New York State. Under Swancott, the Spartans won 2 Section III championships, five league titles and went to two state tournaments.

 For the next 24 years, Carson was head coach of the New Hartford Spartan hockey team and his experience under Swancott paid off in a big way. The Spartans took off and won 335 games, eight league titles, four Section III Championships, four state regional championships, and three Division II state crowns - those in 1997, 2009 and 2010. These two-plus decades of coaching success were supported by the strong commitment the New Hartford Youth Hockey Association, hundreds of skilled dedicated players, and the assistant coaches who shared these championships; Tim Sherry, Roy Kotary, Jerry Malloy, Mike Tesak, and John’s son Carson.

 John retired from hockey in 2014, turning the program over to his son Carson and former player Mike Tesak.

 John will soon begin his 33rd season as coach of the New Hartford varsity softball team. The Lady Spartans have won 350 games, eight league titles, six Section III championships, and one state regional championship under his direction.

 John has been Section III ice hockey chairman for over 20 years and is very proud of all the competition and success the section’s teams have had during his tenure. He also has been site coordinator of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s ice hockey championships in Utica for the past 28 years and is hoping to extend that run for many years to come.

 John is humbled by this honor and would like to thank the coaches association, his wife Lynette and children Carson, Kacie and Kyle for their love, support and patience with their Dad’s dream of coaching boys and girls in sport and life.

John was inducted into the New York State High School Hockey- Hall of Fame, March 2015, for his dedication to the sport as a truly great coach who has contributed noteworthy service to New York State high school hockey.

The New York State High School Hockey- Hall of Fame, located in the Lake Placid Olympic Center's '80 Rink hallway,  recognizes former outstanding Players, Coaches and Teams that have contributed noteworthy service to New York State high school hockey.

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