Matt Cullen's SCSU No. 9 retired with former teammates, coaches paying homage
Pregame ceremony was held before Huskies played Colorado College on Saturday
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Matt Cullen did not give a long speech, but one of his main points was that what made having his number retired special was the number of former teammates that were on hand and for what they gave to him as a player.
Cullen's No. 9 was retired by St. Cloud State before the Huskies' NCHC game against Colorado College on Saturday night at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. The emcee was former Huskies teammate Mark Parrish, who played two seasons in college with Cullen (1995-97).
The two had known about one another throughout most of their playing careers growing up, according to Parrish. Parrish, who grew up in Bloomington, said he remembered playing against Cullen in peewees (12-and-under) and hating him because of how talented a player he was.
Parrish also said he remembers his first high school goal for Jefferson came against Moorhead at the Met Center in 1993. The duo ended up on a recruiting visit on the same day in 1995 at St. Cloud State after they had graduated from high school.
"My first year at St. Cloud State, I remember I got caught not being ready for behind-the-back passes from Matt and apologizing to him for most of the season and always trying to get my stick down when he had the puck," Parrish said.
In a video, a number of former teammates and coaches from Cullen's long career paid tribute to him.
The tributes came from former SCSU head coach Craig Dahl, former SCSU assistant coach Tom Serratore, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, former teammates Matt Bailey (SCSU, 1996-2000), Teddy Blueger (Pittsburgh Penguins), Kyle McLaughlin (SCSU, 1995-99), Ryan Frisch (SCSU, 1995-99), Brian Leitza (SCSU, 1994-98), Matt Hendricks (SCSU, 2000-04, Nashville Predators, 2013-14), Ryan Malone (SCSU, 1999-2003) and Bret Hedican (SCSU, 1988-91, Carolina Hurricanes, 2007-08, USA Olympic Team, 2006). The last tribute was from Cullen's son, Brooks, who could not be at the ceremony because he was playing a game for Moorhead High School.
Cullen's parents, Terry and Nancy, his wife, Bridget, and his sons, Wyatt and Joey were all on hand. There were also several former St. Cloud State teammates who were on the benches near the ice for the event.
"It's pretty emotional to see so many folks that have been there along the way and that's what gets you the most," Cullen said in a short press conference after the ceremony. "It's a cool honor. It's amazing. It was really well done and wonderful.
"What's so special is the relationship part. Just so many memories and Mark (Parrish) is a close friend and he was hosting it."
Cullen said that when they were trying to figure out a series to have the event, Colorado College was picked for a reason. His brothers Mark (1998-2002) and Joe (1999-2003) both played for Colorado College.
And Cullen said it was special to have both his father, Terry, and mother, Nancy, also on hand for the event. Terry was a high school coach in Minnesota in Gilbert (1976-77), Roseau (1977-78), Virginia (1978-86) and Moorhead (1986-97) after playing college hockey at Concordia College in Moorhead.
"They were there for everything and I'm up there and I realize how many sacrifices you make as a parent that you don't realize (as a kid)," Cullen said. "Now that I'm a parent, I have more appreciation for everything they've done than I ever did. To be able to share this with them is unbelievable."
Cullen's number is the second to be retired by St. Cloud State, which became an NCAA Division I program in 1987. The other retired number is 24, which Hedican wore for the Huskies.
Hedican, who played at SCSU before Cullen arrived, became a teammate of Cullen's in the NHL and the duo helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006. In 2006, the duo also played for Team USA in the Turin Olympics.
"Hedy is about as good a human being as you're going to meet and I was lucky enough to play with him," Cullen said. "I looked up to him before I came here. He was an amazing hockey player."
Cullen and Hedican are Nos. 1-2 among St. Cloud State alums in terms of number of games played in the NHL. Hedican, a defenseman, played in 1,039 NHL games from 1991-2009. Cullen, who is No. 2 in NHL games played by an American, played in 1,516 games from 1997-2019.
(Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:45 a.m. Jan. 15 to correct where Terry Cullen played college hockey.)