Longtime NHL star Matt Cullen announces retirement

Matt Cullen, a member of three Stanley Cup champions, announced his retirement Wednesday.

The 42-year-old center did more than just send out a tweet or hold a brief media conference to break the news — he announced it via a lengthy essay on the Penguins’ page on NHL.com, touching on everything from his childhood hockey exploits to the twilight years of his career.

“I’ve been in a constant state of almost-retirement for the last few years,” Cullen wrote. “But coming into this last season, I knew that no matter what it would be the end. Even if we had won the Cup I would have been done. Playing those last few years really gave me the clarity to know this was it.

“It was an emotional time, but I knew it was coming. It just felt right and I was really at peace with everything when it was over.”

Drafted by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the second round of the 1996 NHL Draft, Cullen would go on to play with eight different teams in 21 seasons. He’s best known for his four seasons with the Hurricanes, where he won his first Stanley Cup in 2006, and his three years with the Penguins, where he played a key role on Stanley Cup champions in 2016 and 2017.

“I felt like it was only right to retire in Pittsburgh with everything that the organization had given me and done for me,” Cullen wrote. “‘m so happy I came back and finished my last year in Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t trade that last year for anything.

“I remember waking up in the middle of the night many times these last few years thinking, ‘What am I doing? I’m 40 years old. I don’t think I can play another year in the NHL.’ After each time I signed the past few years I woke up in a cold sweat, not sure if I could still play.

“Honestly, if I could play forever, I would. All I know is hockey. I’ve never done anything. I never wanted to do anything else. I don’t know anything else.

Cullen already has his retirement mapped out  — he plans to play plenty of hockey with his three sons.

Cullen finishes his career with 731 points (266 points and 465 assists) in 1,516 games.