My Path to the NHL: Joe Mullen

Flyers assistant coach talks about his life growing up and making it to the NHL

Tuesday, 12.18.2012 / 3:50 PM www.PhiladelphiaFlyers.com

Below is the second part in a series of stories, told by Mullen himself, on how he became the person he is today…

Last we left off, Joe Mullen had worked his way from Hell’s Kitchen, New York roller hockey to playing ice hockey in the NY/NJ area before earning a scholarship to Boston College…

PART 2: AN EAGLE LANDS IN THE NHL

I spent four years at Boston College (1976-79). I think the fact that I made the team as a freshman is a memory that really sticks out in my mind. I did pretty well throughout my whole career there. Everything was a progressive stage, getting used to the speed and size of all the players.

The Beanpot tournaments were tremendous. It was the first time I played in front of a large crowd like that. At the time Boston Gardens was sold out and to play in front of that many people was just a tremendous feeling.

From the first day I got to school, that's all you heard about. As you go along, you can really feel how the people of Boston felt about this tournament. They talked about it all the time and how great it is. I gotta admit - they weren't wrong at all. It was a really fun tournament to play in and all four schools take a lot of pride in it.

I was fortunate enough in my first tournament to win it and it was the only time.

(During Mullen’s career at Boston College he posted 110 goals and 102 assists for 212 points in just 111 games, which at the time were all school records. He was named a two-time All American, All-East and All-New England. He still holds the record for most goals scored in the annual Beanpot Tournament (10), and had his jersey retired by Boston College).

Out of Boston College a funny connection led me to the NHL. I ended up signing right out of college with the St. Louis Blues, whose GM at the time was Emile Francis, so there was a big connection going from my roots in New York to professional hockey.

My dad worked at Madison Square Garden and we played against his kids in New York, so it was one of those things where there was a hockey connection.

At my first NHL camp I felt pretty fortunate that I knew some kids. In fact my roommate at BC (goaltender Paul Skidmore) was going, so it was nice to have someone that you already know, got to lean on and talk to there.

It was a fun experience for me. It’s not like today’s camp. There were “two-a-days” where you would skate in the morning for two hours, then you get a lunch break, but most of the time you would go home to take a nap because you were back in the afternoon skating for another two hours. I remember that my equipment was soaking wet; you would only have one pair of everything.

It was an eye-opener though. You see these veteran guys around the room, most of them you would see on TV so I was in awe a little bit from that, but once the puck dropped I got used to it – it’s all about the hockey from that point. I said to myself, ‘play your game, do what you normally do and what got you to this point.’

From camp, I ended up playing two and a half years in the minors for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, who were the Blues affiliate in the Central Hockey League.

I finally got called up to the big club, eventually playing four and a half years in St. Louis and I loved it. It was my first experience being in the NHL so I kind of fell in love with the city and the people were great.

(During Mullen’s time with the Blues, he produced at over a point-per-game pace, recording 151 goals and 184 assists for 335 points in 301 regular season games. He was traded on Feb. 1, 1986 to the Calgary Flames for Eddy Beers, Charlie Bourgeois, and Gino Cavallini. In addition to Mullen, the Flames also received Rik Wilson and Terry Johnson).

I moved onto Calgary from there and the trade was a little devastating for me.

But once I got to Calgary they made me feel really welcome. In fact that was probably the best four years I had in the NHL...

Stay tuned to PhiladelphiaFlyers.com for Part 3 in the Joe Mullen series on his hockey career...

PART 1: IN THE BEGINNING…

I was born in New York City, right in downtown Manhattan – Hell’s Kitchen to be exact.

How did I get into playing hockey??

In New York City we probably have more cement than ice, but my dad and my uncles all played roller hockey and they were the ones that got us (me and my brothers) into the sport. So we started playing roller hockey.

We began by playing because of sponsored Police Athletic Leagues and the YMCA and CYO.

I was 10 years old when I first got to play on the ice, and that’s actually when I first starting ice skating. We joined a league in West New York/New Jersey.

I remember we had to walk down to the Port Authority, jump on a bus and travel across the river to New Jersey, and then walk to the rink. The thing that I mostly remember about that is that we were all 10,11 and 12 years old kids with no parents around to travel with us, so we all had to look out for ourselves. It was a good learning and maturing experience because we knew we had to take care of ourselves. There were a total of about 10 of us traveling - we had to go together, stick together and go back together.

From there I started to play junior hockey in New York and that’s when I really thought I could pursue a career in hockey. We started to see guys come out of our league (the Metropolitan Junior Hockey Association), which was fairly new and started by New York Rangers general manager Emile Francis.

My older brothers played in it before me, so I was really following in their footsteps trying to get on that team at age 13 or 14.

I eventually got on a team in that league and we saw some kids make it to the next step, which was college.

That was the biggest step to take for me. To realize that all of these guys are going off to college, I remember thinking if I could go on to college and get a scholarship that would be my next goal.

After a few years of playing in the MJHA, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to Boston College, where I would spend the next four years of my hockey life.

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