Brent Cullaton, seine Schnelligkeit und seine NHL-Chancen
Fire and ice.
Florida Everblades right winger Brent Cullaton has supplied the fire since coming over from Tallahassee in a trade last month, scoring 14 goals in 16 games.
And the ice at TECO Arena, as well as other rinks throughout the East Coast Hockey League, has somehow avoided melting under the heat of his skates.
Brent Cullaton of the Florida Everblades gets in some ice time during Thursday's practice at the TECO Arena in Estero. Lisa Krantz/Staff
As the league-leading Everblades cultivate their newest dimension to an already potent attack, the modest Cullaton tries to downplay his speedy image. Even as he acknowledges the fact that opposing defensemen instinctively back up towards their own zone when he has the puck, the 25-year-old Canadian flashes a shy smile behind his fiery blue eyes and shrugs off the praise.
"I don't think I'm that fast really. I just make the best of my opportunities," Cullaton said. "I don't mind having the reputation though, because I know I'm not a slouch. It's good seeing the opposing defender take an early step back when I get the puck because you know you're not going to get run."
Everblades team captain Eric Rud happens to be one of those defensemen who has dealt with Cullaton's speed as an opponent as well as a teammate.
"It's a different kind of speed," Rud said. "A lot of guys are fast going up and down the ice, but his is more of an explosive type of speed where he can bust though for a breakaway. You can't teach that, you're just born with that."
Rud played 50 games with Florida during its inaugural season last year and has been on the ice the majority of this season, so he faced the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks enough times when Cullaton played for them.
"He definitely makes it difficult on opposing defenses because you have to respect his speed," Rud said. "You have to make sure that if you're going to play a close gap you have to be close enough to get a piece of his body. You can't let guys like that wheel around. It's a different strategy."
Position - Right Wing
Height - 6-0
Weight - 200 pounds
Shoots - Left
Hometown - Petawawa, ON
Birth Date - 11/12/74
College team - Miami (Ohio) (1995-96)
Pro career - Mobile (ECHL, four games in 1996), Kansas City (IHL, 1996-97 & 1997-98), Peoria (ECHL, seven games in 1997), San Antonio (IHL, 23 games in 1998), Tallahassee (ECHL, 1998-99 & 31 games in 1999-2000), Orlando (IHL, six games in 1999)
Season stats - 47 games played (16 with Florida), 24 goals (14), 20 assists (6), 44 points (20).
It is precisely that kind of impact Florida head coach Bob Ferguson was looking for when he made the trade with Tallahassee on the first Tuesday in January. The Everblades had to give up defenseman Todd Kidd in order to get Cullaton, but an 11-3-2 record since his arrival and a heavy increase in scoring is evidence that the trade paid off.
The Everblades are currently second in the ECHL with an average of 3.94 goals per game, but were at the bottom of the league in that category before the trade.
"What I like about Brent is that he's come in and scored big goals for us and he's given us a lot of team speed up front," Ferguson said. "Defensively you have to back off a little bit and that creates a little bit more room, and I think the entire team has benefited from it."
And make no bones about it, Cullaton's speed is something Ferguson is much happier to see coming off his bench than off the opponent's.
"He's got NHL-type speed and there's no question about that," Ferguson said. "If the other aspects of his game continue to develop along with his speed, he could possibly get a shot someday."
A shot is all Cullaton has ever dreamt about since he was first pushed out onto a frozen lake in Petawawa, Ontario by his father 22 years ago. Then a wide-eyed child at the age of 3, young Brent fell in love with the game he currently makes his living at.
"I liked the sport of hockey from the start, right from when my Dad sent me out on the pond, gave me a stick and let me skate around," Cullaton said. "Back home you'd come home from school in the wintertime, scribble down your homework, put on your skates and out to the lake you'd go. Mom would come out at about eight-o'clock with a cup of hot chocolate and bring you in at 11."
Cullaton has come a long way from Petawawa, and is currently engaged to be married. He's enjoying his best season as a pro, is playing for a title contender that just happens to be affiliated with his favorite NHL team (Carolina) and is doing it all under the warm sunshine of Southwest Florida.
"This is a great team to play for and Bob is a good coach who gets what he demands out of his players," Cullaton said. "That's why we're at the top of the league. I played against him (Ferguson) when he was at Indianapolis of the IHL and I always wanted to play for him, so I kind of got lucky to play for him this year."
But it's the Everblades and their fans who are feeling lucky to have Cullaton and his rocket skates in that green and white uniform.
Cullaton und seine AHL-Zeit
By JACK CORCORAN
October 6, 2000
Brent Cullaton had the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks to thank for getting his career back on track last season.
A ticket out of town was just what he needed.
Cullaton, who had sunk into Terry Christensen's doghouse, came to life when he was traded to the Florida Everblades in January. He scored 20 goals in 32 games, earning a late call-up to Hamilton of the American Hockey League.
And the scoring didn't stop there.
Cullaton had six points in three games with the Bulldogs, garnering player of the week honors in the AHL. The performance got him another contract with Hamilton this summer and a chance to open more eyes in training camp with the Edmonton Oilers.
"They like a fast team," Cullaton said, "and that's my kind of game."
But the rags-to-riches story -- similar to the one of former Tiger Shark defenseman Todd Reirden winning a spot with Edmonton and then finding a steady job in St. Louis -- ends there.
At least for now.
Cullaton, sent down from Hamilton this week, is right back where he started last season. But he said he isn't about to let the disappointment slow him down. And he isn't about to stop dreaming about making it to The Show.
"It's not over yet," said Cullaton, who practiced with the Tiger Sharks on Thursday. "You can still get there. You can do well here and get right back up there."
With guidance from Oilers fitness consultant Daryl Duke, Cullaton dropped 16 pounds this summer, checking into camp at 202 pounds. The speedy right wing didn't look out of place in Edmonton. He had a goal and three assists in three games before being sent to Hamilton's camp. Although he picked up three more assists in two preseason games with the Bulldogs, Hamilton coach Claude Julien said he would have liked to have seen more.
Julien also questioned whether Cullaton, whose wife is expecting the couple's first child at the end of the month in Ohio, was distracted.
Not so, Cullaton said.
"I'm in good shape and ready to go," Cullaton said. "Whether it's up there or down here or wherever it is, you just have to play the best you can. That's what I'm expecting to do."
Left wing Patrick Gingras, center Andrew Long, defensemen Jim Baxter and Simon Tremblay, and goaltender Evan Lindsay also worked out for the first time Thursday, giving coach Gerry Fleming nine bodies on the ice and the opportunity to hold his first real practice of training camp.
"I like what I see," said Fleming, whose team will visit the Florida Everblades tonight and Saturday in its only preseason games. "You have to understand that these guys are a little disappointed to be sent down. But it was good, and it was enthusiastic. The guys just want to play. They want to win, and they want to get better."
Cullaton und seine relation zu Fans:
Where did it all start going wrong in the relationship between sports fans and athletes?
The message fans continue to send to those who play the games we're all willing to pay to watch hasn't changed over time. It's just as simple now as it was back in the days of Joe DiMaggio, Gordie Howe, Bill Russell or Johnny Unitas.
Just treat us with the same respect we give you, and acknowledge us from time to time.
That which is still right between a team's star players and their fans can be found right here in Southwest Florida with the Florida Everblades.
Although the Everblades are only a minor-league team in the East Coast Hockey League, they are affiliated with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. And many of the players on Florida's roster still harbor a dream to play in the NHL.
For now, their skills on the ice have been good enough to lead the Everblades to an impressive 37-10-2 record, tops in the ECHL. But it is how they conduct themselves off the ice that their fellow professional athletes at the highest level should start to take notes on.
"Character is important. You have to be involved with the community because the fans are basically what keeps the team running," said Everblades right wing Brent Cullaton. "If you treat the fans like junk then they're not going to come watch you play or support you. I think here that's why we got a lot of fans because all of the guys are real decent around the fans and they sign the autographs and do the little things that add up."
They do the little things that add up. How hard is that for anybody to understand, much less a successful athlete fawning over his latest multi-million dollar contract?
Just last week, one day before an important two-game homestand against the Roanoke Express, Cullaton and teammate Reggie Berg drove out to Manatee Middle School after a hard practice to have lunch with some of the kids. Later in the afternoon, the two spoke to an auditorium full of wide-eyed boys and girls, giving them advice for their upcoming aptitude test, and talking a little hockey.
This past Tuesday a group of Everblades players toiled in the sweltering afternoon sun, putting plywood on roofs for a Habitat for Humanity housing project. Once again, this came after another tough morning practice on the ice.
And after each and every home game, whether or not it was a win or a loss, the players shower, then put on a nice outfit complete with jacket and tie. Despite being tired and likely battered and bruised from the game, they step out of the locker room to greet a throng of fans armed with pens and Everblades paraphernalia.
Careful not to miss even one excited autograph seeker, these talented young men who make far less than the Pavel Bures of the world appease the crowd - all the while sporting a smile.
Now is that too much to ask for? Not according to these guys.
Bernie sagt: "Gut Ding hat Weile"
Bernie sagt ausserdem: "Vielleicht haben wir den Kracher ja schon"
Leo sagt: "Bernie wird das Schiff schon schaukeln!!"