Penguins’ Matt Cullen taken aback by 1,500th game celebration
Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen knew the team was planning a pregame celebration to commemorate his 1,500th career NHL game Tuesday night.
The scope of it surprised even him.
Every Penguins player wore a No. 7 jersey for warm-ups in a tribute to their popular veteran teammate. His wife and three sons under the age of 13 joined him on-ice for a presentation of gifts, including a tricked-out black-and-gold ATV.
“It was pretty overwhelming honestly,” Cullen said after the game. “It was way more than I would ever deserve or expect. It really took me off guard. It just means a lot that everyone would go through that much trouble for me.”
They were ready to test drive it last night. But they didn’t. pic.twitter.com/PNjfXTkPjz
— Dana Heinze (@RealDanaHeinze) March 6, 2019
Cullen’s sons hopped into the ATV almost immediately.
“They’re probably still in it,” Cullen joked.
Cullen said one of the best things about reaching the milestone has been enjoying his climb up the league’s all-time games played list with his sons. Every time he moved up a rung, they made sure to inform their dad of who he passed.
“It’s cool,” Cullen said. “As a dad, anytime I can share an experience like that with my boys, who love the game and are just really excited to be there, it’s just special. It’s beyond words.”
When Cullen left the Penguins and signed with the Minnesota Wild before last season, the plan was to enjoy one more year in his home state and call it quits. The season didn’t go exactly as planned and his body was still holding up, so when the Penguins proposed the idea of a return last summer, he jumped at the chance.
Nights like Tuesday remind him of why he did.
“I know when I’m done and I’m sitting at home, I’ll appreciate it even more,“ Cullen said. “It’s obviously pretty special what the Penguins do for a guy like me, make me feel special, and go out of their way to do all that for the family. It’s part of why I love it here so much.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .