John Cullen’s journey in life and hockey is a story of skill, courage, determination and ultimately success.
The son of former Toronto Maple Leaf Barry Cullen, John attended Boston University where he was a finalist for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.
His first year as a pro was spent with Flint in the IHL and after compiling 48 goals and 157 points he was named co-winner of the Rookie of the Year award with a young goaltender named Ed Belfour.
The following year he made the Pittsburgh Penquins were he had 49 points as a rookie and followed that with seasons of 92 and 94 points respectively.
He was traded the following year to Hartford and later played two seasons with the Maple Leafs before finishing his outstanding career with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But his biggest battle wasn’t on the ice, but off it. In the prime of his career he was diagnosed with a non-Hodgkins form of lymphoma. Cancer would now be his greatest opponent of all. Not only did he beat the disease with the help of his loyal friends and family, he made it all the way back to the NHL to make a dramatic exclamation point, that cancer can be beaten. That year he was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy for the player that best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
A three-time NHL all-star, in 621 career games he accumulated 187 goals and 550 points.
In a final tribute the IHL has renamed their Comeback Player of the Year award, the John Cullen Trophy. John Cullen, truly an inspiration on and off the ice.
Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Athlete category – on May 12, 2004