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Matt Cullen: 'It's hard to believe that this is the end, but here I am'

He retired with a video message and lengthy column called "A Hockey Life."

Matt Cullen's NHL career is over. 

"Getting to wear an NHL jersey has always been an honor. But getting to be a part of the lives of my teammates, coaches, trainers, fans ... that's been my greatest honor," said Cullen in a video announcing his retirement after 21 seasons as a pro. 

The native of Virginia, Minnesota graduated from Moorhead High School in 1995 and starred for two years at St. Cloud State University. In the NHL he played for Anaheim, Carolina, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Florida, Nashville, Ottawa and the New York Rangers. 

He played 24,974 minutes of game time, which is literally 2.85 years in real time. 

  • 21 years in the league
  • 1,516 regular-season games
  • 132 playoff games
  • 24,974 minutes of ice time (including playoffs)
  • 3 Stanley Cup championships
  • 285 goals (including playoffs)
  • 510 assists (including playoffs) 

"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.' Thank you to everyone who made my dreams possible. I'm grateful for every game, every moment, everything this game has given me. I will spend the rest of my life in awe of how blessed I've been," said Cullen. 

"It's hard to believe that this is the end. But here I am."

In addition to his video retirement message, Cullen wrote a story titled "A Hockey Life" and it's available in full on the Pittsburgh Penguins' website. Here's a portion of it where he describes how much he loved playing high school hockey in Minnesota. 

"To us Minnesota kids, high school hockey was the NHL. And playing for the state championship was our Stanley Cup.

"Every year my family would drive three-and-a-half hours south to the St. Paul Civic Center to watch the tournament, whether my dad's team was in it or not. I remember it had clear boards and was filled with 15,000 people watching. It was the highlight of my whole year. It was like a holiday.

"My best memories of my high school career at Moorhead was playing in that tournament. For a kid growing up around high school hockey, that was the ultimate. I played in the tournament during my sophomore, junior and senior years. Unfortunately, we never won the title, but we were runner-up twice and finished third the other year."

Lastly, Cullen says he'll continue to live in Minnesota and skate with his boys on the outdoor rink he built for them. 

"I may have skated my last shift, but I'm not hanging up my skates just yet. After all, there is a sheet of ice in Minnesota that needs to be flooded every night. That's where you'll find me, sipping my thermos. Maybe, even using the hot water to get the surface nice and smooth so the next day me and my three boys can have our own little intense 2-on-2 tournament with a malt on the line, skating in the open air, on the outdoor rink, under the hanging lights, under the Minnesota stars."

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