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Get To Know: Matt Cullen

by Aaron Paitich / Minnesota Wild

It took 13 years for Matt Cullen to return to his home state and play professional hockey. The 1996 second-round draft pick played for five different NHL clubs before signing a three-year contract with the Wild this past off-season, but has life really changed for the Moorhead native? caught up with Cullen during some after-practice stretching. Get the former St. Cloud State standout’s take on the new Big Ten hockey conference, the high school state tournament and his daily routine. How specific are your stretching, game-day and practice routines?

Cullen: Everybody, throughout your career, develops a routine that you think works for you. Starting on the day before the game I have a little routine I do before and after practice. And on game day, you have your own routine that you go through. Any superstition in that?

Cullen: Not really. I stick to my routine pretty good. I try to leave all the superstitions out of it but I do stick to the same routine every game day. It just helps you to keep a level of consistency in the way that you prepare both at home and on the road. Does that develop through your youth levels or younger hockey years? Has that changed?

Cullen: I think each guy gets it from their own places. For me, it’s just something that’s evolved throughout my career. I know when I started I didn’t have any kind of routine. I didn’t have any consistency with what I was doing before games and the day before a game. Over time, you figure out what works best for you and what your body needs to be ready for the game the following day. Did you watch the Final Five?

Cullen: Just a little bit. We had a bunch of games at the same time so I would have liked to follow it closer. We were in the middle of a bunch of games and we had just gotten back from a long road trip. You spent two years as a Husky at St. Cloud State University, what are your thoughts on the new Big Ten hockey conference that will form in the 2013-2014 season?

Cullen: It’s interesting. We were just talking about that today, it’s an interesting thing. I think it will probably hurt the WCHA and CCHA and the conferences that are involved. It will be a big change. I guess it will be an opportunity for other teams to come into the WCHA. But it’s too bad, you kind of lose some of those rivalries and I don’t know all the inner-workings of what went on or how it works. But it’s unfortunate for those teams like St. Cloud; it was such a big thing to play Minnesota. Things change now, but it will be interesting to see what happens with it. Were you able to watch Moorhead in the state tournament at all?

Cullen: A little. It was in the same building here, so they send us on the road during the tourney but I followed it as close as I could. My family was at all the games so I got all the updates. I love that time of year. State tourney time is pretty cool. I’ve always followed it and no matter where, I’ve been I’ve always kept pretty close tabs on the high schools. Of course, I keep close tabs on Moorhead but just the high schools in general, I really enjoy that. I follow the state tourney pretty closely. Are you still connected with the hockey program up there?

Cullen: I go home in the summer to Moorhead so I train at the facility where everybody trains. A lot of my friends are involved with Moorhead hockey and the high school programs and youth hockey programs, so yeah; I keep pretty close tabs on everything and keep in touch with all those guys. They always seem to round up some big boys and play physical.

Cullen: Each group is different. In Moorhead, they work a lot on the individual skills as kids are coming through the program. They put a lot of emphasis on stick-handling skills, passing skills and seeing the ice. We’ve had some big boys come through but it’s just one of those things that each group is different. They work very hard at the skill development at a young age and I think it translates into success at an older age. Now that you live and play here in your home state, is life really that much different for you with all the games and traveling?

Cullen: You get to see family a lot more, but it’s not a lot different. You know, you don’t have as much time as you’d think. I didn’t know how it was really going to go. It’s funny, it has been a lot different as far as the games and the practices take priority. Especially now, I have three kids. You don’t have time for much other than hockey. It has been nice around the holidays and things like that you get to see family and friends more. You’ve spent much of your NHL career in the Eastern Conference, and fans always hear how much easier the travel schedule is there than in the Western Conference. Can you attest to that?

Cullen: It’s a huge difference. The East, the travel is so much easier. I guess I had forgotten. I started out in Anaheim and I’ve been in the east for a while now. I didn’t realize the difference between the travel from the east to the west, it’s quite a big difference.

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