Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

After cancer scare, ex-Lightning star John Cullen feels blessed

In a way, former Lightning center John Cullen said, fighting through the cancer that ended his career — and almost his life — gave him two of his greatest gifts: twin daughters Karlyn and Kortland, now 12.

"They tell you before you go through chemotherapy and radiation that you will become sterile so you'd better save this up if you want more children," Cullen said. "I had to go to one of those (sperm) banks, and I donated to myself."

Cullen's story is one of the most emotional in Lightning history. Diagnosed in March 1997 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Cullen needed six rounds of chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, during which his heart briefly stopped.

Even so, Cullen won a spot on the Lightning's 1998-99 roster, an effort for which he was awarded the NHL's Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to the sport.

But it was quickly clear Cullen was not the same player who had two 30-goal seasons for the Penguins and 34 goals and 105 points in 150 games with Tampa Bay. After four games with the Lightning and six for Cleveland of the now-defunct International Hockey League, Cullen became Tampa Bay's assistant coach, a job he held through 2000.

"As for changing my life, it probably did," Cullen said of his ordeal. "I catch myself. If I get upset, I realize my situation could have been a lot worse. It definitely helped me through my experiences."

A tough one came in June 2009, when he lost his Dodge dealership as part of the economic crisis. Cullen, 48, who had moved to Atlanta with his family — which also includes wife Valerie and daughter Kennedy, 17 — operated one of 789 dealerships closed by Chrysler.

He now works at a Chevrolet dealership in Jonesboro, Ga., owned by his brother, Terry, for whom Cullen had worked for five years.

Not bad when you consider the alternative.

"I just feel it's luck and being blessed," Cullen said of surviving cancer. "How many years later and I'm talking to you? It's an unbelievable feeling."

Comments
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Published: 06/23/18
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Published: 06/23/18
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Published: 06/23/18
Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

The Lightning isn't scheduled to pick until the second round, but there's no telling how active they might be with trades, so you'll want to follow our live coverage throughout the NHL draft Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) in Dallas.(funct...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

The Lightning has re-signed one of its restricted free agents in backup goalie Louis Domingue, who will be back with Tampa Bay on a two-year deal worth $2.3 million.Domingue, 26, was acquired from Arizona in November after he had posted a 4.33 goals-...
Published: 06/22/18
Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

The Lightning has filled one of the openings on Jon Cooper's coaching staff, announcing Friday  that former Tampa Bay forward Jeff Halpern has been hired as an assistant coach.Halpern, 42, has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the ...
Published: 06/22/18
Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

As expected, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he does not intend to re-sign veteran forward Chris Kunitz, who will seek his fifth Stanley Cup with a different team next season.Kunitz, 38, brought much-needed playoff experience in his lone...
Published: 06/22/18
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's draft, but that's not to say the weekend couldn't be busy for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part ...
Published: 06/21/18