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Eric Peterson, Published September 23 2012

Cullen remains active during ‘frustrating’ NHL work stoppage


With the NHL lockout around a week old, Matt Cullen has used a simple approach to navigate the uncertainty – be prepared.

Cullen, a center for the Minnesota Wild, is skating four to five times a week and training every day so he’s ready once this labor dispute ends.

“I’m approaching it as if it’s going to be resolved in the next month,” said Cullen, a graduate of Moorhead High School. “Now, I don’t have any information on that. … It’s just a matter of trying to prepare as if the season would start somewhat on time. With that in mind, we are skating pretty hard.”

The NHL regular season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 11, but that start date could be in jeopardy if the labor dispute lingers.

Cullen said he’s part of a group of nearly 40 players, who are skating together in the Twin Cities area, trying to stay sharp until the lockout ends.

“We’re fortunate in that regard down here in Minnesota that there are a lot of good players around,” said the 35-year-old Cullen, who is entering his third season with the Wild. “We get on the ice and play a full scrimmage, which is pretty good. There are some good players so it’s competitive and it’s high-level hockey.”

Around 10 of the players in that group are Wild players, Cullen said, and that includes forward Zach Parise, who was one of Minnesota’s key free-agent signings this offseason.

The Wild also signed star defenseman Ryan Suter. Those two additions had the Wild fans buzzing for a franchise that hasn’t made the NHL playoffs since 2008. The lockout has tempered some of that excitement.

“I think that people are really frustrated because it finally looked like things were turning … and all of a sudden we’re locked out,” Cullen said. “It’s frustrating for players and fans.”

This is the second NHL lockout in Cullen’s career.

The 2004-05 season was lost due to labor unrest. Cullen played in Italy that season. Cullen is hopeful an agreement will be struck sooner than later this time around.

“It’s very frustrating no matter how you slice it,” Cullen said. “But this time it doesn’t seem like the issues are as great. And it doesn’t seem like the divide is as far as last time.”

Cullen said he’s being more patient during this lockout. In 2004-05, Cullen said he “lived and died” with every news report.

Cullen hopes if the NHL doesn’t play a full schedule this season, the regular-season games lost are minimal.

“As you get later in your career, you hate to miss games and I understand that I can’t play forever,” Cullen said. “It hits you a little bit different as you get a little bit older.”

Cullen is in the final year of a three-year contract with the Wild.

“A career goes by pretty quick,” he said. “I’ve played 15 years and that seems like it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I hope to play for a little while longer and feel good.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com