SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Mark Cullen of the Norfolk Admirals has been named the 2005-06 winner of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey. The award is voted on by players and members of the media in each of the league’s 27 cities.
Cullen, a fourth-year pro from Moorhead, Minn., has persevered through more than his share of serious setbacks in his young career. In 2001, Cullen suffered a fractured vertebra on a hit from behind in a game during his junior year at Colorado College. As a rookie with the Houston Aeros in 2003, Cullen broke his ankle during the conference finals, forcing him to the sidelines while his teammates went on to capture the Calder Cup. Then, just prior to the 2003-04 season, Cullen was diagnosed with malignant melanoma – skin cancer – and had it and several surrounding lymph nodes surgically removed. He has been cancer-free for more than two years.
Cullen has had a career year on the ice in 2005-06, his first in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. He has set personal highs with 29 goals, 39 assists and 68 points while amassing just 48 penalty minutes in 54 games for Norfolk, surpassing the previous franchise record for single-season scoring. And on Nov. 10, Cullen not only made his National Hockey League debut with Chicago, but he also scored a goal that night to help defeat St. Louis. The 27-year-old center has seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 24 games with the Blackhawks this season.
This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1978, honors the late Fred T. Hunt, a long-time contributor to the league who won three Calder Cup championships as a player and three more as a general manager. Previous winners of the award include Ross Yates (1983), Glenn Merkosky (1987, ’91), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Murray Eaves (’89, ’90), John Anderson (1992), Ken Gernander (1996, 2004), Steve Passmore (1997), Randy Cunneyworth (2000), Nathan Dempsey (2002), Eric Healey (2003) and Chris Taylor (2005).
In operation since 1936, the AHL is celebrating its historic 70th anniversary this season, and continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Over 80 percent of all NHL players today are AHL graduates, and more than 350 AHL players have been recalled to the NHL this season alone.