5 Quick Strikes with Jassen Cullimore
Q: After most recently residing in Chicago, what made you want to return to Tampa Bay, and also what caused you to get re-involved with the Lightning organization?
A: Last year after playing in Germany, I had my family over there and we had been looking for a place to settle. So, when hockey was over, we left and returned home to Chicago, but being in Germany recently, we realized that less was more. It taught us to actually live life and enjoy it and not get caught up in the rat race, and what better place to do that than in Tampa Bay.
Q: You played for a number of different teams throughout your NHL career, so what is the key to adapting to different systems and coaching philosophies, while still maintaining a personal level of success?
A: Well, as long as the coaches liked me, I liked the coaches. If you get a good coach who likes the way you play, then it's great. I was pretty lucky to have that, and as far as styles go, I always tried to adapt my style to the way the team plays, and I felt that I was agile and I could skate. But you know, the game changed after we won the Stanley Cup here in Tampa and the rules changed and we were all forced to adapt. So I did the best I could with that, and I was lucky to play a few years after that.
Q: You're now starting to get involved with youth hockey in Tampa Bay, so what do you think are the most important aspects of teaching in terms of providing players with a strong foundation to continue growing in the sport?
A: You know it's funny and I'll be honest, I have been reading up on it and learning as much as I can. There is a great book out there that I think all of the coaches in any sport should have, and it's called The Little Book of Talent. It's great and basically what it tells you is that what kids need when they're young is repetition. It says to break things down so they can get it right the first time. That lays a good foundation, and we know that if the foundation is not good, then eventually it will crumble. So, I think starting them young, and doing it the right way from the beginning are crucial to their development.
Q: Along those same lines, what ideas or contributions would you personally like to make to help grow community hockey initiatives in Tampa Bay?
A: Personally I think it's very important to provide support for a lot of the local coaches here. There are a lot of them out there, and also a lot of dads and moms who spend their time taking their kids to hockey practice and what not, so it's important to keep encouraging them to do that. In addition, as former players, it's important for us to be creative and think of various ways we can get the youth at a young age to improve their skills. If the kids see themselves improve, they're going to enjoy the game and they're going to play a lot longer.
Q: Your seven seasons with the Lightning are the most you ever played in the NHL with one team. For what reasons was Tampa Bay such a good fit for you and your style of play?
A: Well, I can say that my first season with the Lightning was a good fit because they wanted me. I got picked off waivers from Montreal, but to be honest, it was tough my first three years here. We had three different owners, three different general managers and three different coaches. We would start the year with a 23-man roster and by the end of the season, there would only be five or six of us left from the original team. But things just changed from there and we grew into a Stanley Cup-winning team, so to see that thing come into its own and grow from where it was turned out to be really great. That will always hold a special place in my heart.
Q: Your hometown of Simcoe, Ontario has also produced notable NHL players such as Red Kelly, Dwayne Roloson and Rob Blake. Is there a "celebrity" aspect to being a former player back in your hometown?
A: You'd have to ask them. When I go back there I don't really think about it. I kind of go about my business and hang out with my friends, but you know some other people might say that. I just think we're lucky enough to have a few guys from there who had success in the NHL to represent our city. In addition to the names you mentioned, there was Nelson Emerson, Rick Wamsley and Ryan VandenBussche, so it's great at least for me to go back there and see them.
Q: You spent one season playing in Germany. What was that experience like and what nuances did you notice between the European game and the NHL?
A: As far as the fans, the European game is very passionate. It's almost like soccer where they sing songs and chant, but where I played in Germany there was no screen or board above the ice, so there was no replay. So with that said, all of the entertainment relied on the fans singing their songs and what not. That was a different aspect of it, but the hockey over there was really great as far as skill level. If I had to say, it is probably half a step up from the AHL here in North America. It's not quite as good as the NHL or else those players would be here, but it was a great experience for me and my family, and I kind of wish I would have gone over a year or two earlier.
Q: Take us back to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. What is more nerve-wracking, being tied in double overtime in Game 6 with the season on the line or clinging to a one-goal lead in the final minutes of Game 7?
A: For me it was actually the first game, Game 1 of the Final. I remember I had trouble sleeping, and you can ask my wife, I never have trouble sleeping. But yeah, the night before that first game, I was up until five in the morning, and every time I tried to close my eyes I would wake up and still couldn't believe we were playing for the Stanley Cup in just a few hours. As far as your question goes, I'd have to say both. They were both tough, but I think the double-overtime game has to be tops because if we would have lost that, it was over. And you know, those are things you hate to see. I hate watching games when they show the team that won and they pan over to the other team that lost and you really feel for them. I remember that night specifically, and we just didn't want to be on that side.