When the Penguins lost 6-3 to New Jersey on Jan. 28 at PPG Paints Arena, center Matt Cullen became the oldest player to ever suit up for the Penguins: 42 years and 87 days old.
The real story might be whose record he broke.
Prior to Cullen, the oldest Penguin was Tim Horton.
That’s right, the donut guy.
Cullen knows who that is: “I’ve had quite a few [Tim Horton’s donuts]: A couple of double-doubles, and a few Canadian Maple donuts. I lived right by a Tim Horton’s when I played in Ottawa, and it’s a dangerous place.” (For the uninitiated, a “double-double” is a Tim Horton’s coffee with two creams and two sugars.)
But before Horton was known for donuts, he was one of hockey’s all-time greats: A Hockey Hall-of-Famer. A four-time Stanley Cup champion with Toronto, and a member of their last Cup winner in 1967. A three-time first-team NHL All-Star on defense. He played 24 NHL seasons.
And, very briefly, Horton was a Penguin.
Horton skated just one season with the Penguins, 1071-72. He played 44 games, notching two goals and nine assists.
The Penguins made the playoffs, but got swept by Chicago in the first round.
The series ended when the Blackhawks’ Pit Martin broke a 5-5 tie by scoring just 12 seconds into overtime of Game 4 at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena. (That set an NHL record for quickest OT goal.)
Martin was credited with the tally, but Horton had inadvertently kicked the puck into his own net. The Penguins’ goalie was Jim Rutherford, the current GM.
That season wasn’t Horton’s only connection to Pittsburgh: He played three seasons (1949-52) for the Pittsburgh Hornets, Toronto’s American Hockey League affiliate.
After his solitary campaign with the Penguins, Horton played two seasons with Buffalo. He died in an automobile accident on Feb. 21, 1974, while driving to Buffalo after a game in Toronto. He was 44.
The donut chain Horton founded started as a single shop in Hamilton, Ontario, that opened in 1964. It now has over 4,500 locations in 14 countries.
So, Cullen is in select company. He feels good about that, and just feels good, period.
“If you’re fortunate enough to be able to play the game at my age, I consider that a blessing,” Cullen said after the loss to the Devils. “I’m happy with the way I feel. Tonight wasn’t ideal but, overall, it’s been a lot of fun to be back here and playing with the guys.
“I feel really good, and have for the last while. Obviously, going into the stretch you get a little burst of energy when the stakes get higher.”
Image Courtesy Of Getty Images.