For Immediate Release
March 13, 2017
Deborah Hamilton, Hamilton Strategies, 215.815.7716, 610.584.1096, ext. 102, or Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Matt Cullen Looks to the Playoffs But Keeps His Eyes on Jesus
The 40-Year-Old Leader in the NHL Shares His Faith Story with Fellowship of Christian Athletes as He Considers Retirement
KANSAS CITY, Mo—At 40, Matt Cullen may very well be playing in his last NHL season before retirement. The workhorse veteran and locker room leader is someone younger Pittsburgh Penguins players can look up to. After all, many were just toddlers when Cullen first broke into the league.
Now, with the Penguins in the playoff hunt, Cullen has made many memories on the ice, with two Stanley Cup rings and appearances in more than 1,300 regular-season games. Just last month, Cullen had a chance to play in his very first outdoor NHL game when Pittsburgh beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stadium Series at Heinz Field, and he chalked up a goal to boot. A born-and-bred Minnesotan, outdoor hockey was nothing new to Cullen.
Some of Cullen’s leadership skills and his ability to earn respect from younger players comes from within, but much of it undoubtedly comes from above. For the most recent Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) Magazine, Cullen shared his faith story with FCA.
“It was awesome being able to share more about Matt Cullen’s relationship with Christ,” said FCA Magazine editor Clay Meyer, who has interacted with countless college and professional athletes so readers can learn more about the faith of their favorite players. “When young hockey fans can see that a veteran in the NHL has trusted Jesus during his 20-year career—in the best times and worst times—it communicates that there is much more to sports than stats and scores. From the playing field to the hockey rink, sports provide a platform so athletes can share what grounds them, and that is certainly true for Matt Cullen.”
Cullen first picked up a hockey stick at the age of 2, was the son of a high school hockey coach in northern Minnesota and played hockey at St. Cloud State College in Minnesota. But he never envisioned a 20-year career in the NHL.
“Nobody from my hometown of Moorhead had ever made it that far,” Cullen wrote for FCA Magazine, “so it seemed like such a long shot in my mind. I never even considered it as anything remotely close to reality. That didn’t keep me from enjoying hockey, especially when I could play with my siblings, but I just didn’t ever think about a future in the game.”
But by the end of high school, draft chatter around Cullen’s name was starting. During college in 1996, he was drafted 35th overall by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now the Anaheim Ducks). Changes were in store for the young player, but he remained focused on the things that mattered.
“During that time, it was great to have supportive parents who were going to be there for me wherever my future took me,” Cullen said. “They had helped establish a foundation of faith in both my siblings and me. We grew up in the church, and Jesus was an important part of our lives from a young age. My mom especially was good about making sure He was a priority in our lives.”
Cullen said in his first few years in the pros, his faith took a backseat, and he lost track of who he was for a while.
“Off the ice I was lost,” he wrote, “but on it things were going really well. I was seeing a lot of playing time when I reconnected with my now wife, Bridget, in Anaheim. We had dated in high school back in Minnesota but had since gone our separate ways. We got back together in California, started dating again, and soon got engaged. I thank God for orchestrating that because having her back in my life really helped me get my relationship with Him back on track. With Bridget’s help and encouragement, I rededicated myself to Christ.”
Since then, Cullen said his faith journey has been a continual growing process, especially as he’s played with eight different organizations over two decades.
“With each stop along the way,” he said, “we’ve grown deeper in God’s Word and truth, reincorporating it into our lives and relationships, and being encouraged through the churches we’ve attended. I’m proud of the fact that people know I am a Christ-follower playing in the NHL. Hockey is such an up-and-down sport. One day you’re on top of the world, and the next you’re down in the dumps. My faith helps put things in the right frame of mind where I keep my eye on what’s truly important: playing my hardest and putting everything I have into the game. I was given a gift, and it’s my responsibility to make the most of it for God’s glory. Having that perspective has really helped me handle the ups and downs that each season can bring.
“My faith is what comforts me when I think of my hockey career coming to a close,” he continued. “I hope I’ve made a positive impact on the people I’ve come in touch with and made a difference in their lives. And I hope people appreciate and respect what I’ve done in the game, the kind of person and man I am, and the legacy of faith in Christ I’ll leave behind.”
To interview a representative from Fellowship of Christian Athletes, contact Deborah Hamilton at 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096, ext. 102, or Beth Harrison at 610-584-1096, ext. 104, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com.