The Pittsburgh Penguins honored center Matt Cullen before Tuesday nights game as he reached played his 1500th career game. The lofty total Cullen moved into 20th on the all-time NHL games played list and into second place of games played by an US-born player behind only Chris Chelios. Both accomplishments put Cullen ahead of fellow American Mike Modano.
Modano was a hero for Cullen.
“He’s a guy I looked up to and enjoyed watching (when I) was growing up and cheering for the North Stars. So that was pretty cool,” Cullen said. “It’s been kind of fun here over the last stretch–my boys being the age they are, after every game they show me the list. It’s been kind of fun to go through the experience with them.”
Chelios played until he was 48-years-old. When asked about possibly getting to 1600 games, Cullen could only laugh, “what’s that,” he laughingly dodged before firmly saying, “Uhh nope.”
Cullen was overwhelmed by the ceremony of the evening, which also included a black and gold all-terrain vehicle.
“It was pretty overwhelming honestly. It was way more than I would ever deserve or expect,” he said.
Watch the entire locker room conversation here:
The Penguins went all-out to honor the man that they nicknamed “Dad.” During warmups, each player wore number Cullen jerseys adorned with his No. 7 and nameplate. There was also a video tribute to pay homage to Cullen that documented his storied 21-year career. You can see the video that was displayed to the PPG Paints Arena crowd below:
No one plans to play 1,500 NHL games.
What Matt Cullen has done was achieved by taking each day one-at-a-time, being disciplined in his training, and forging strong bonds with supportive teammates and family along the way.
Let's step back and appreciate the past 21 seasons. pic.twitter.com/tZRNKOHsCA
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 6, 2019
The Penguins center has scored 728 points (264g, 464a). This season Cullen has performed admirably in a defensive fourth line role. He has 17 points (5g, 12a).
Cullen joined the Penguins as a free agent in 2015. The signing reunited him with former Hurricanes’ general manager Jim Rutherford, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2006. Cullen won his second Stanley Cup on June 12, 2016, after scoring four goals and two assists during the run. Despite being a free agent, Cullen resigned with the Penguins to remain with the team for another year. On June 11, 2017, Cullen won his second consecutive Stanley Cup with the Penguins when they defeated the Predators in six games. The 40-year-old had two goals and seven assists during the postseason. After spending the 2017-18 season with the Minnesota Wild, he returned to the Penguins during the 2018 offseason. The Penguins locker room had praise for Cullen earlier today.
A Minnesota native, Cullen, founded the “Cullen Children’s Foundation,” also known as “Cully’s Kids,” in 2003. The foundation provides financial resources to organizations that support children’s healthcare needs with an emphasis on cancer. Majority of the work is done in the Minnesota and Pittsburgh areas.