After 21 memorable seasons, three-time Stanley Cup-winning forward Matt Cullen has officially announced his retirement from the NHL.
“It was an emotional time, but I knew it was coming,” Cullen said. “It just felt right and I was really at peace with everything when it was over. I felt like it was only right to retire in Pittsburgh with everything that the organization had given me and done for me. I’m so happy I came back and finished my last year in Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t trade that year for anything.”
The 42-year-old forward — the oldest player in the league last season — finished with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in his 71-game final year with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He primarily quarterbacked the fourth line and was an effective penalty killer.
Cullen crafted an incredible career with eight different franchises (Anaheim, Florida, Carolina, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Minnesota, Nashville, and Pittsburgh), and it was polished off with a celebration of his 1,500th NHL game this past 2018-19 season. He ranks 19th all-time in games played with 1,516 — second-most among U.S. born players, beaten only by Chris Chelios, who has played in 1,651 games. His Cup wins came with the Hurricanes (2006) and the Penguins (2016, 2017) in back-to-back years.
After the 2017 championship win, ever the family man Cullen opted to move his wife and three sons back home to Minnesota and join the Wild so that his family could stabilize. He lasted one season in Minneapolis until re-signing with the Penguins on a one-year deal.
“I’ll always have the Cups and those memories,” said Cullen. “But when I think back on those times, what really stands out is watching my boys with those guys. That, for me, was the coolest thing ever to watch. It was like the boys were part of the family. Those are the memories I’ll treasure probably more than anything. Just seeing them around the room every day. I know the boys will remember it forever.”
Cullen was an absolute force in the locker room, and his veteran presence (read: Dad energy) was lauded in his last handful of seasons in the league. That commanding presence earned him a 2019 Masterton Trophy nomination, which he ultimately lost to Robin Lehner.
Congrats on your retirement Cully! What an honor it was #7 pic.twitter.com/OjYGVnu4zP— Jake Guentzel (@jakenbake20) July 10, 2019
His teammates respected him, and the city of Pittsburgh adored him.
“As I take this time to retire, I look back over the last 42 years of my life, and the one thing I want to say the most is thank you,” Cullen said. “Thank you to everyone who made my dreams possible. I’m grateful for every game, every moment, everything this game has given me. It’s hard to believe that this is the end, but here I am.”
Thank you for all the memories too, Matt.