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Even after a 22-year professional hockey career, Matt Cullen still lights up when he talks about the sport – whether recalling his 3 Stanley Cup wins, reminiscing over backyard hockey with his brothers or talking about starting his day on the rink with his kids at 6 a.m.
When he pushes onto the ice, his body settles into a comfortable cadence, almost like a dance. Racing across the rink or launching a puck toward its goal, Matt is clearly home whenever he’s on the ice.
“My earliest memories are skating in the backyard,” Matt notes. “I have 2 brothers, and we played hockey growing up. So, we’d always have buddies over, and we’d shovel the rink off and go play hockey until it was dark. That’s probably where I fell in love with the game, and those are still some of my favorite memories to this day.”
“I have a lot of great memories – playing in the state tournament for the Spuds, getting to play college hockey, but winning the 3 Stanley Cups was my favorite,” Matt comments. “When I won with my whole family there, and my boys were old enough to know what was going on, those are the memories that I’ll carry with me forever. Seeing the smiles on my boys’ faces coming onto the ice after we won the Cup, that still gives me goosebumps.”
“My dad was a high-school coach, and I never dreamed of playing in the NHL or even college hockey,” Matt remarks. “I wanted to be a Spud when I was growing up. That was the ultimate.”
“Growing up, playing hockey was all I ever wanted to do,” Matt explains. “When you’re done playing, you look back, and you realize how fortunate you were to do what you dreamed of. Not many people get to do that. So, I realize I’m pretty lucky, and I’m grateful for it. It was a great run.”
“I’m helping to coach my kids’ hockey. I’m building a backyard rink for the first time at home. It’s nice to be able to take a bigger role in the family life, be here for the kids’ hockey and be involved in their school – things I haven’t really had the time or opportunity to be around,” he says. “In the past, we’d get to come home for a couple of months, and then we’d have to leave again for hockey season. Family is really important to me, so being able to be home and spend time with my young family has been really rewarding.”
“We actually launched a new initiative through Cully’s Kids called Project Grace that’s a way to reach out a little bit more directly to individuals,” Matt explains. “When we find out about a child who needs help, we can buy them whatever they need, whether it’s a wheelchair bike or something not covered by insurance. Bridget and I grew up here. We have family here. We both really want to make a difference in the community. We feel like we’ve been given more than we deserve in life, so we just kind of feel pushed to do a little something special for kids who are going through some tough times.”
“There’s a lot of parallels between Bell’s Pay It Forward program and what we’re doing with Cully’s Kids,” Matt notes. “I appreciate the way they aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd and get out there and make a difference. It’s not easy, so I really appreciate that and respect that. Our values really line up, and it has made a really good fit.”
“The quality and character of your people are what kind of define you as an organization, and I think that going in to Bell you see that, and I think that’s what kind of sets them apart,” he comments. “It’s a place where you enjoy going. If you’re dealing with people you enjoy being with and you trust, that’s all I’m really looking for in a bank, and Bell definitely exceeds that.”
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