Last weekend, Matt Cullen drove east to the Twin Cities to watch his three sons play hockey. On Wednesday, immediately after ending a conference call with the Wild media, Cullen ran into a rink in Grand Forks, N.D., to join his recently-retired hockey-playing brothers, Mark and Joe, so they could all coach their children in a series of games.

This is why Matt Cullen decided against retiring a back-to-back Stanley Cup champ and against re-signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins despite the allure of three-peating.

“I want my boys to experience playing hockey and watching me play hockey at home,” Cullen said. “This was a family decision.”

The former Moorhead High and St. Cloud State standout is returning to the Wild for a second stint and 20th NHL season. It was an agonizing decision. He loved his time in Pittsburgh. He adores General Manager Jim Rutherford, who has acquired him three times. And, of course, there was the appeal of being in Steel City for another banner raising.

But after letting the excitement of winning it all for a third time in his career wear off and making sure he felt fully energized to put his body through another 82-game and playoff run meat grinder, Cullen decided his heart was in Minnesota.

“Minnesota is home and it’s a special place for me,” Cullen said. “It’s not easy to say goodbye and it’s not easy to walk away [from Pittsburgh]. I’m confident in the decision we’re making and it’s the right thing for our family. But at the same time, it’s not an easy one.

“But at age 40, it’s time to let the kids plant some roots and settle down at home because, as you go through a long career, the kids give up a lot in order to allow you to play. At a certain point here, it becomes more important to be fair to them, too. It’s a great scenario that I can continue to play in the NHL and be home. It’s an organization I’m really comfortable with and happy to be a part of.”

This isn’t all family driven, Cullen made clear: “Last year I thought that Minnesota was the best team in the West that we faced during the regular season. … It’s going to be a really hungry group to win, and I think that last season probably left a sour taste for a lot of guys [in the playoffs].”