I met Dave Cunning a couple weeks back. He came to The Weekly’s office looking to write about sports.
Usually I meet people about town and ask them if they want to write for us. But with Dave, he was one of the few who actually came to me.
Soon after, I learned that Dave and I have some things in common. We’re both Canadian, we both write for newspapers, and we both played hockey — though, impressively, Dave played professionally.
▲ Dave Cunning. Photo by Darryl Coote
In early August I sat down with Dave over a couple of beers to talk shop.
“Well, if you want to get technical,” Dave said, “I started writing in college. I mean it was something that everybody does. You’re writing a hundred papers a year and it just gets to the point where either you get good at it or you don’t.”
And then he found blogging. The freedom it offered him to express whatever was on his mind was a nice break from the rigidity of essays.
In 2006, Dave, who only recently became engaged, took blogging with him to France where he went to play professional hockey for Lyon H.C.
“That was one of the things I wrote [about]; I was writing about my experience. I was away from everyone I knew … and I was just alone with a computer and I wanted to tell people what was going on and I just wrote.”
To play hockey at the professional level, he said, was one of his greatest accomplishments.
“I always wanted to play pro hockey. It’s not something that everybody gets to say [they did].”
After that season he went home to Kelowna, British Columbia, where the transition from sport to a regular job wasn’t easy.
“It’s tough when you’ve spent your life pursuing a dream and ... [it’s] the only thing that matters and then you’re doing something that couldn’t matter less. You’re working for a paycheck, you’re working to get by. And it’s awful.”
Since he hung up his skates, writing has been a way for Dave to stay in touch with the game he loves. He is still just as invested he said, it’s just from a different perspective.
And though it may not seem like it at first, for Dave there are two main similarities between writing and hockey — passion and practice.
“When you latch on to a story that you love, your best comes out. It’s not that different from the game of hockey. When you’re tuned into the game, you’ve trained, you’ve practiced, you’ve done a million pushups, you’ve done a million wind sprints, you‘ve done everything because you want to be the best at the game.”
The same is true with writing.
“If you half-ass a story it’s going to show up pretty quick,” he said.
The first story Dave wrote (and was paid for) for the Kelowna Daily Courier shows where these two disciplines intersect.
He visited a Kelowna Rockets practice and saw the players in line, just stick handling. “It was just like a hockey school,” he said. Just the basic back and forth from foot to foot.
And for Dave that was the hook for his story. These players, who were one step below the NHL, were doing drills for children just learning the game and he wanted to show that the game doesn’t change much from minor to professional hockey.
“And it’s not that different from writing,” he said. “The best writers probably write every day, probably two or three times a day, or more. We put this crazy interpretation or perception on professionals of any genre that they’re doing these mystical things that normal people can’t do and at the end of the day they just have been doing them consistently, and long enough, to be in really good practice to do them well.”
Along with The Weekly, Dave writes as a contributor for the Kelowna Daily Courier, BetOnHockey.com, and The Score’s Backhand Shelf. For these publications he’s interviewed some pretty big names in the hockey world like Pat Quinn and Mark Recchi. But to Dave, “I like to think every interview is my biggest one. You never know what you’re going to hear, you never know what you get to write, and you never know who is going to read what you get to write.”
Impressively, from Jeju’s shores he is writing once a month for the Kelowna Daily Courier.
For Dave and his wife, Karma, this has been their second foray to Korea to teach English. They were originally in Geoje Island, near the mainland. They left for a year and came to Jeju this past March, and so far it seems to be agreeing with him.
“I want to keep writing. I want to keep training. I want to keep doing the things I love. I want to keep doing the things I’m passionate about. If there’s an opportunity to keep doing that on Jeju then yeah we very well might stay longer. Like I said this place is beautiful. Jeju has so many things to offer for my wife and myself; everybody really.”
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