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Cullen opens up about wild improvement and career mentors in chat with NHL.com

By on January 2, 2022 0


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Matt Cullen is in a good position.

The 45-year-old, who has 731 points (266 goals, 465 assists) in 1,516 NHL games with the Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers , the Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins have worked in player development for the Penguins for the past three seasons. It helped him find the best of both worlds.

“I love being involved in the game and I learn that from it. I’m enjoying my time in Pittsburgh and it gives me a good balance, ”said Cullen before the Wild played against the St. Louis Blues at Discover NHL 2022. Winter Classic at Target Field in Minneapolis on Saturday.

“My last few years in the NHL, I always felt like I was missing something. My kids were playing hockey at home and I felt like I was missing something. I no longer feel like I’m missing. [time with my kids] and I can still stay involved in the game, which I love, so that’s fine with me, and it’s probably more just to find a potential long term plan in the game, because I love it. “

NHL.com caught up with the Minnesota native to ask him about his long career in the NHL, the Wild this season and what he watches in his spare time.

What do you think of the Wild so far this season?

“It’s so impressive. We watch a lot of hockey in my house, so we see the Wild, of course. It’s so cool to see, it’s kind of a revitalization of the whole organization. , I think, which is so cool to see. I got to know some of the coaches, some of the players, again. [Wild general manager] Billy Guerin, of course, coming from Pittsburgh, made a huge impact. He just did a great job of saying, “This is my idea, this is my vision”, and he’s going to stick to it.

“[Coach] Dean [Evason] did a great job. I think he’s a pragmatic guy and he says it like it is. In my experience in the game, when you have a coach who’s just very straightforward and you know exactly where you are at, there’s no tricks, nothing but, “Here’s what I got. expect you and this is what we need. ” Players are reacting to that, and it looks like this group has really responded, which is cool. When you get an infusion from young guys, of course with [forward] Kirill Kaprizov come in and play like he did, and [forward] Kevin Fiala“He’s a great hockey player, they have a very good base.”

Savage Defender Jared spurgeon said earlier this season that you were a big influence early in his career. How important was mentoring to young people?

“It’s cool to hear because I’m looking back on my career and I think I never could have played this long without the mentors I was lucky enough to be with. Paul Kariya, Rod Brind’Amour, Bret Hedican, guys like this went out of their way to help me and teach me things. I think that’s one of those things as a player, you always try to convey that. At the time [Spurgeon] he looked like he was 12, and he still hasn’t aged at all. He’s a young boy, a great human being and a great hockey player, and I loved spending time with him. “

Speaking of Brind’Amour, how did he manage to become a coach so smoothly?

“Authenticity is a word that comes to my mind with Rob. He is what he is. I think authenticity, people react to that, players react to that. He doesn’t try to ‘being a different coach than he is in person. He just stays true to who he is. His work ethic, I see him skating with the guys and I’m like, I wouldn’t do that. But he can, you know? I love Rod. He’s as good as they come, and he was a fantastic leader. “

Why your former teammate, the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-André Fleury, been so good for so long?

“Aside from all the talent he has, and his skills, and the fact that he really works at his game as hard as anyone I’ve been around with, I think his joy and his love of the game is what attracts people to him, but I think it keeps him alive too. If you don’t like the game you are not going to devote your heart and soul to it as long as it does. did it. And it’s a difficult position. an island, you are the only one there. His love of the game shines every time he is on the ice. I love being with him, his teammates love it to be around him. He was a great teammate, one of the best I’ve ever had. And I sat next to him in the locker room, so I take credit for that. “

Were you in Pittsburgh last month working with forward Evgeni Malkin?

“A little. I work mostly with the center, faceoffs and different ideas with some of the younger ones. But ‘Geno’ is starting to come back from a [knee] injury. They are good friends of mine and we’ve been through a lot together, so it’s so much fun going back, and I love Pittsburgh. [Forward] Jake guentzelI’m also coming back from an injury, it’s so much fun dating these guys. “

You are one of 21 players to have played over 1,500 games. How did you come to such a rarefied air?

“I certainly don’t feel like I belong to those lists when I see some of the names on them, but I guess it was probably two or three things. I loved the game, # 1, in which I grew up [playing] on the outdoor rinks here, that’s why [the Winter Classic] is such a fun thing for me to see. I’m just a type of rink rat. The other thing that has probably helped me a lot is that I turned to nutrition and training probably earlier than most people. Paul Kariya was well, well, way ahead of his time. When I got into the League, we were going into an opposing team’s town, most of the guys were going out, going to dinner or whatever. He would take me to the gym and we would work out, then we would go to dinner after that. It was like he had just done it all, and now that might not be that rare, is it? Guys are much more into their fitness and their diet.

“To be able to skate too. The game just got faster and faster, so I had to keep working to keep the speed of my foot in order to be able to play the game at the right pace. I knew the mental side of the game was over. through experience and then I was lucky to have good opportunities. I was lucky to access good places at critical times. We were in Carolina when we won the Cup (in 2005 -06) and coming to Pittsburgh kind of injected a lot of life back into my career. And having kids. My boys love hockey so I was in my thirties and saw the excitement in their eyes when they got to go to an NHL game or a playoff game and make the standings every day. “

Who was the person you were afraid to meet the first time?

“I guess the two when I went to Anaheim that come to mind are Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. When I first walked in and met these two, I was like: “Holy cow, it’s the NHL. “It was a big deal. [Lemieux] in Pittsburgh. I was older in my career, had been there for a long time, but I was really nervous about meeting Mario. He just has a presence around him. ”

What are you staring at right now?

“I’m watching Tom Brady’s series, ‘Man in the Arena.’ It’s awesome, I love it. Super cool. It’s almost based on the Last Dance genre, it’s Tom Brady running through his career, hour-long specials. I really like that. “

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