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Matt Cullen

Matt Cullen has 11 points in 19 games for Minnesota this season after a 39-point season last year. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Matt Cullen has 11 points in 19 games for Minnesota this season after a 39-point season last year. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

With Kevin Kennedy

The first team I played on was the Moorhead Orange in Virginia, Minnesota. My dad was a high school hockey coach so I grew up around the game. Both my parents were involved because I had two brothers who also ended up playing professional hockey. My mom did most of the driving because my dad coached and he was also a school teacher so he didn’t have a lot of extra time to drive us around.

You know, playing for my dad wasn’t as hard as it could have been. There are some things that are obviously different, but I kind of looked at it as an advantage to be able to pick his brain because I thought he was a pretty good hockey guy. My dad was quiet behind the bench, but we were fortunate because we were pretty successful so there wasn’t much to yell about. “Work hard and have fun” is all he’d basically say. He believed there was a lot more that went into it, but if you took care of those two things, you’d be fine.

I have a great minor hockey memory when I played in the squirt division and we won a 64-team tournament in Fargo, North Dakota. We won it and I remember it being pretty special to play against some teams from Canada. We used to stay at the nice hotels and we’d play knee hockey in the hallways all over the hotel and the hotel staff would chase us all over the place. They didn’t like us doing that, but we’d play hockey everywhere.

But not every rink I played in as a kid was great. The rink I grew up playing on had chicken wire fencing instead of glass. So if you got your stick caught, the butt-end would stab you right in the gut, and on top of that, it was a cold barn. That being said, we got to play at the Met Centre once where the North Stars used to play, but I would have to say the best rink was the St. Paul Civic Centre which was replaced by the Xcel Centre. It’s where they played the state high school tournament - I got to play in that three times and it had clear see-through boards which were really cool. The 17,000 people watching was pretty cool too.

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