Lovable Cullen Returns This Week to Place He Loved

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

Lovable Cullen Returns This Week to Place He Loved


Good luck finding a Penguins fan who doesn't love Matt Cullen.

The feeling is mutual.

In fact, if you can believe it, the player affectionately called "Dad" might have loved his time in Pittsburgh even more than the city loved him during two consecutive Stanley Cup runs.

"We just fell in love with Pittsburgh," Cullen said Sunday in a phone interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "How can you not? It's perfect."

Cullen will return to Pittsburgh Thursday when his Minnesota Wild play the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. And while he already has skated against his (most recent) former team, a 2-1 victory Oct. 28 for his current employer - this one means much more because of what the city represents to Cullen and his family.

"It's going to be an emotional trip," Cullen said. "Pittsburgh was so good to us. It'll be fun to go back and see a lot of familiar faces and good friends, especially the people at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, where our kids went to school.

"All around the city, they're some of the best people I've come across in hockey."

Going to dinner Wednesday night with some former teammates is absolutely on Cullen's agenda, even if the details still need to be finalized.

"It's always fun to have a little quiet time and catch up over dinner," Cullen said.

It's doubtful that the group will struggle for conversation topics.

Here's a few Cullen discussed Sunday, in which he left zero doubt how much he loves this place:

* The Wild had their NHL-mandated off last week, and Cullen spent part of it in Nashville, Tenn.

Yes, Nashville.

Even more strange was the fact that the Predators were playing host to the Vegas Golden Knights, which allowed Cullen to catch up with Marc-Andre Fleury and Nick Bonino.

"That was great," Cullen said.

* When those three got together, they reflected on the uniqueness of the Penguins' past two Cup-winning teams.

"The friendships that we all developed, the closeness and how we grew as a group . it was just such a unique group of people," Cullen said. "After you're gone, you realize that you probably won't ever be a part of a group quite that close and quite that special again.

"You leave it considering yourself really blessed and super thankful to be a part of such a special group of people. To go through everything we went through, it just doesn't happen. I think we all have become acutely aware of what a special group we had."

* Speaking of Fleury, Cullen is psyched for the success Fleury has experienced in Vegas.

"The way that he handled everything he went through, the manner in which he handled it, the class he handled with . I don't know if I could have handled it that well," Cullen said. "I don't know anybody who could have handled it that well and do it the way that he did it. Then to step up and play some huge games for us in the playoffs last year . without him playing the way he did, there's no way we win the Stanley Cup. It's just such a great story. It couldn't happen to a better person. …

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