4 Providence Reds to Win the AHL's Les Cunningham Award
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4 Providence Reds to Win the AHL's Les Cunningham Award

When the Les Cunningham Award was first introduced in 1947-48 for the American Hockey League's most valuable player, the Providence Reds had already been established in the league for over a decade. Between 1947-48 and 1976-77, when the franchise moved out of Providence, four Reds were awarded the Cunningham Award. In fact, the first recipient of the award went to a player from Providence.

The Providence Reds existed as an American Hockey League franchise from 1936-37 to 1976-77. The franchise was bought in 1977 and moved to Binghamton to become the Dusters. The present day Connecticut Whale can be traced back to the Reds. The Les Cunningham Award has been given out to the AHL’s most valuable player since the 1947-48 season. Four members of the Providence Reds won the award with two of the players winning twice each.

Carl Liscombe was the first ever recipient of the Les Cunningham Award in 1947-48. He was also the first player to win in consecutive seasons, also winning in 1948-49. Liscombe was on the tail end of his pro hockey career after playing in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings from 1937-38 to 1945-46. He led the Reds to a Calder Cup championship in the second year.

In 1947-48, Carl also earned the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the player in the AHL with the most points during the regular season. He scored 50 and assisted on 68 for 118 points in 68 games. The following year, his point total dropped to 102 but he scored five more goals. An extremely clean player throughout his pro career, incredibly, Liscombe sat just one minor penalty during that 1948-49 season.

In total, Carl played 373 games with Detroit in the NHL. He was a member of the Stanley Cup winning team in 1942-43. The offensive pinnacle of his NHL career came in 1943-44 when he led the Red Wings with 73 points and finished fourth in the league. Liscombe only played in the AHL from 1946-47 to 1949-50, his first year with the St. Louis Flyers and the rest with Providence. Carl has yet to be posthumously inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame.

Ray Powell was the AHL’s most valuable player for 1951-52. He also earned the John B. Sollenberger Trophy, leading the AHL with 97 points. Powell played pro hockey from 1943-44 to 1956-57. He appeared on the AHL rosters of the Buffalo Bisons, New Haven Eagles and the Reds. His only NHL experience came in 1950-51 when he played 31 games with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Johnny Bower was the next member of the Providence Reds to win the Les Cunningham Award. Like Liscombe, Bower won in consecutive years, 1955-56 and 1956-57. It was the only two years that Bower played for Providence. The Reds were Calder Cup champions in 1955-56. Bower is only of just seven goalies to win the award.

Johnny had a lengthy, and at times intermingled with the NHL, career in the AHL starting in 1945-46 and ending in 1957-58. He played his entire AHL career with just the Cleveland Barons and Providence Reds. He got his start in the NHL in 1953-54 but didn’t become a full-time regular until the 1958-59 season. He played until 1969-70 with the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bower was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. In 2006, when the American Hockey League inaugurated their own Hall of Fame, Johnny was among the first induction class.

Dave Creighton was 37 years old and in, what would be, his second last season of professional hockey when he won the Les Cunningham Award in 1967-68. Creighton scored 22 goals and assisted on 53 others for 75 points in 72 games with the Reds. Dave played 800 AHL regular season games scattered between 1948-49 and 1968-69 and totaled 692 points. From 1960-61 forward, Creighton was in the AHL full-time.

Creighton’s first taste of success in the game came in 1947-48 when his Port Arthur Bruins beat the Barrie Flyers in four games to become Memorial Cup champions. The following season, he jumped right to the National Hockey League with the Boston Bruins. He played 616 NHL regular season games between 1948-49 and 1959-60 with the Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers.

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