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The 700 Club

NHL Champion Checks Fear of Failure

CBN.com -Matt Cullen has long passed the NHL career average of five seasons. The Nashville Predators center just finished his 16th.

“It seems like it’s just a blink of an eye. I look back and I’m like all these experiences I’ve had and the teams I’ve played on and the different guys I’ve played with. It’s just –it’s unbelievable to think about it and I just feel so blessed to have done it. I’ve loved every minute of it.”

He’s played in more than 1200 games with seven different teams and a 2006 Stanley Cup championship with the Carolina Hurricanes.

“That was the coolest experience that I’ve had in my hockey career. It’s so long and so tough and every game is you live and die with each game, really. We were picked at the beginning of the season to finish 30th in the league and here we were having an unbelievable season. And it was just one of those dream rides that you never expect to get.”

Hockey was a way of life for the Moorhead, Minnesota, youth whose first ambition was to play on his dad’s team.

“My dad coached high school for 20 some years. So for me, it was just something that I always grew up in and uh, you know, I always dreamed of playing, I guess #1, for the high school team. I never even considered the NHL”

Matt was named the player of the year in Minnesota his senior season. After two years at St. Cloud State College he was the 35th pick of the 1996 NHL draft. His speed and stick handling skills opened the door to his career, while his experience now extends it.

Tom Buehring, 700 Club Reporter: “League talent gets younger and younger. Does that make it more or less of a demand for some veteran mentoring?”

“You see a lot more young captains and a lot more young leaders in the game. Part of it has been the salary cap, you know, the young guys are forced to jump in and play right away. And part of it is the young guys are getting so good, they can handle the puck and they can make plays. It’s created a much faster, a much more skilled game. So there’s a place for the older guys to –to show that level of professionalism that it takes to prepare yourself every night.” 

Matt arrived in Nashville last year as a free agent. It became his 7th NHL home. His work ethic, character and community support continue to make him an appealing acquisition. These qualities have earned him a strong reputation within the league.

“I was fortunate to be brought up in a good, Christian household. My parents were great. We had a strong faith from the beginning.  So I had a real appreciation for what He had done for me.”

“Players will tell you hockey resembles the ongoing speed of life’s change and uncertainty. For the experience veteran that means never allowing yourself to think you’ve finally arrived.  And in the case of Matt Cullen that means never, ever  allow your skates and faith to grow dull.” 

“There’s a lot of indecision in this life. And a lot of times you don’t know what your direction is, and a lot of times you don’t know if you’re going to be here tomorrow. There’s all these trades and the different things that come along. Having Him to lean on and to guide us, it’s been such a blessing.”

Competition is fierce with more players than there are positions creating even greater pressure to succeed.  

“There’s no nights where you can kind of cruise through a game and be fine. Every team is so good and so well coached. And the depth of talent, it just forces you to be at the top of your game every night.”

All the more need for emotional, mental and spiritual support. The maturity Matt has attained through his experiences both on and off the ice is something he imparts to other players.

“There’s a lot of good people in hockey but it’s a funny culture in that it’s awfully quiet as far as the spiritual side of things. So it’s a challenge, it definitely is, but I think that it’s changing a lot. To me it always starts at the top. If you have a leader within your organization and within your team that can help  just make this a part of daily life in an organization, it’s for the best. And it’s been happening; it’s been growing a lot.”

Matt Cullen, hockey’s seasoned mentor, is still learning while passing assists along the way.

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my career is that, you know, you’re always afraid, #1, to fail. And you’re afraid to disappoint people. You’re afraid to disappoint Him. For me my faith has helped me to kind of let go of a lot of that.  That unconditional love that you get… and trust that He has a plan; that’s the mindset that has helped me a lot and just knowing that He’s there and is going to bring me to the right place.”

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