Ray Cullen

Ray was one of three Cullen brothers who played in the NHL. His older brothers Brian and Barry played a total of 570 NHL games in the 1950's and 60's.

Ray played in the Chicago Blackhawks organization early on, which included four seasons in the juniors with the St.Catharines Teepees (OHA), a club where Hall of Famers like Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito also had played.

Playing with the likes of Pat Stapleton, Vic Hadfield, Chico Maki, Dennis Hull, Doug Jarrett and Roger Crozier, Ray put up very solid career numbers with the Teepees. He had 262 points (127 goals and 135 assists) in 197 games and was OHA's top goal scorer during the 1959-60 season. That season the Teepees defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings to win the Memorial Cup as Canadian junior champions.

Throughout Ray's junior career he was told that he was a bad skater. Ray later said that it was a blow to his confidence and that it affected his play.It all changed when Ray started his senior career with the Knoxville Knights of the EHL in 1962-63. He scored a fine 66 goals and 109 points in 67 games. He made the 1st All-Star team and was named the EHL rookie of the year.

Ray admitted that he got his confidence back while playing for Knoxville.

" I never heard a thing about being a bad skater. I think the combination of playing so much and not being told about my skating did more for me than anything else. I regained confidence in myself."

Interestingly, Chicago did not want Ray to go to the EHL, but he had an offer he could not refuse.

"The most Chicago would offer was a $500 signing bonus and $3,500 to turn pro in the Central League," said Ray. "Ray Miron was running Knoxville in the Eastern League, and he offered $5,500 so I went with him."

Some people were knocking the EHL and thought that playing there would hurt Ray's future NHL career. Ray disagreed though.

"The EHL was composed of a lot of ex-pros,and while they may have lost their legs they hadn't lost their brains. They played mean hockey in that league. You learned to keep your head up, or you wound up in a hospital."

While Ray would never change anything about his days in Knoxville, one has to wonder how spurning the Hawks wishes may have set his career back in some ways. In those days you did not dare go against a team's wishes, as that quickly earned you a trouble-maker label. Teams buried many talented players in the minor leagues back in the Original Six days simply out of spite.

The next season, 1963-64, Ray played for the St. Louis Braves in the CHL and put up another very fine season which saw him score 98 points in 63 games. He was a 1st team All-Star. In 1964-65 Ray Move up to the AHL to play for the Buffalo Bisons. He was an instant hit, scoring the winning goal in his first game and then three games later scored a hat trick. He played on a line with two other rookies, Oscar Gaudet and Jack Stanfield. Ray's fine season earned him the AHL rookie of the year award.

After that season Chicago traded him to the NY Rangers in a six-player deal in June, 1965. Ray got his first taste of NHL action during the 1965-66 season when he played eight games (scoring 4 points) for the NY Rangers. He played the rest of the season in the AHL.

Ray was then claimed by Detroit in the intra-league draft in 1966 for $30,000. He was on his way to earn himself a spot on the Red Wings opening roster in 1966-67, but he suffered an injury after a freak accident during training camp where he got a fracture on his hand after it was pinned against the wood in the boards. It sidelined him for over a month. Ray eventually played 27 games (scoring 16 points) with the Red Wings and 28 games with the Pittsburgh Hornets in the AHL.

While with the Wings the team thought enough of him to move Alex Delvecchio to left wing and play Cullen at center with Gordie Howe. What a thrill that must have been.

"I remember one game I got two early goals and Gordie, who was my roommate, just told me to get in front of the net. He spent the rest of the night digging the puck out for me, but I never did get the third one. Gordie was the greatest guy in the world to play with. That was his 20th season but I remember him telling me the one fear he had was the day he would have to quit hockey."

Ray's big break came when the expansion came. He was claimed by Minnesota North Stars in the 1967 expansion draft. For the first time Ray was a regular in the NHL. He had a very fine first season with Minnesota, scoring 28 goals and 53 points in 67 games and another 8 points in 14 playoff games. The next season 1968-69, Ray increased his production to 64 points (including 26 goals) in 67 games.

He had another solid season with the North Stars before being claimed by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1970 expansion draft. Ray added some valuable experience to the Canucks lineup and was used a lot in powerplay situations. He had 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points in 70 games for the first year Canucks.

That 1970-71 season proved to be Ray's last as he put his family before his career.

"I had children going to school and that was the first time I didn't take my family with me, and I didn't enjoy it."

Ray, like both of his brothers before him, retired from professional hockey at the age of 29. Ray played a total of 313 games and scored a 92 goals, 123 assists for 215 points in his career.

He joined brother Brian in the car dealership business in London, Ontario. To this day he remains a very successful car salesman.


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