StaTuesday: NHL’s oldest active player, Wild’s Cullen climbing ranks in games

While the hockey world weeps for Jaromir Jagr, off to play in his native Czech Republic after half an injury-shortened season with the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cullen officially has a new title: The oldest player in the NHL.

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Perhaps the 46-year-old Jagr will return someday after his sabbatical with HC Kladno (which he owns) in the Czech second division, but for now the 41-year-old native of Moorhead, Minn., is officially the league’s elder statesman.

For his part, Cullen seemed pretty nonplussed by the news at the time.

“I’ve been the oldest guy in the room for quite a while … it is what it is,” he said. “It’s been mentioned a few times.”

Cullen was the oldest member of the Pittsburgh Penguins during their back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017. Known as “dad” in the Penguins’ locker room, Cullen has been in the NHL since 1997, the year current teammate Joel Eriksson Ek was born.

He’s one of four 40-year-olds to play in the NHL this season, joining Jagr and defenseman Mark Streit, who retired in October after making two appearances for the Montreal Canadiens.

Cullen and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who will turn 41 next month, are the last ones left standing.

The Wild’s super-vet has played in 1,423 regular-season games since joining the league in 1997, fifth amongst active players, via hockey-reference.com. However, “active” is somewhat loosely defined.

Of the four players in front of Cullen, only two are currently on an NHL roster. Jagr was waived earlier this month, while Jarome Iginla remains a free agent.

PLAYER GAMES FROM TO
Jaromir Jagr 1,733 1990 2018
Jarome Iginla 1,554 1996 2017
Patrick Marleau 1,554 1997 2018
Joe Thornton 1,493 1997 2018
Matt Cullen 1,423 1997 2018
Zdeno Chara 1,407 1997 2018
Marian Hossa 1,309 1997 2017
Henrik Sedin 1,307 2000 2018

If Cullen opts to play another season — he was reportedly contemplating retirement before signing with the Wild last summer — he could still pass Hall of Famer Phil Housley for most games all-time by a Minnesota-born player.

Cullen is just 72 games behind Housley, and would surpass the former Buffalo Sabres great next season. For the record, Wild forward Zach Parise is 13th on this list with 850 games played.

PLAYER GAMES FROM TO
Phil Housley 1,495 1983 2003
Matt Cullen 1,423 1998 2018
Jamie Langenbrunner 1,109 1995 2013
Neal Broten 1,099 1981 1997
Mike Ramsey 1,070 1980 1997
Bret Hedican 1,039 1992 2009
Dave Christian 1,009 1980 1994
Joel Otto 943 1985 1998
Reed Larson 904 1977 1990
Sean Hill 876 1993 2008

Cullen also ranks 23rd among American-born players with 123 appearances in the playoffs. That’s more than any other St. Cloud State alumni and fourth most for a Minnesotan. A deep run for the Wild this spring could help Cullen surpass Broten, Shjon Podein or even Langenbrunner, who won two Stanley Cups himself in 1999 with the Stars and 2003 in New Jersey.

PLAYER GP G A PTS
Jamie Langenbrunner 146 34 53 87
Neal Broten 135 35 63 98
Shjon Podein 127 14 13 27
Matt Cullen 123 18 38 56
Joel Otto 122 27 47 74