"Having him back helped a lot of players," says Tim Shields, the UNH captain for '88-89. "Everyone was aware of what he had accomplished. The best part was, he was the same—a calm guy, friendly, skating around, doing the Ickey Shuffle in practice the week before the Super Bowl. Maybe he was a bit more careful when someone shot the puck at him, but basically he was the same. The players saw this, and they got a lift from it."
In fact, though the Wildcats' record that season was 12-22, the team fared better than it had in the previous three years, and by mid-January of this season, the Wildcats were ranked 13th in the NCAA Division I hockey poll with a 10-7-5 record.
Kullen, who has always been an even-tempered, undemonstrative coach, agrees with his players that outwardly things had appeared the same. But subtle changes had occurred. "As far as hockey goes," he says, "the entire ordeal was like taking a sabbatical. You know, coaching can tend to consume you. That's not the way it should be. Don't get me wrong—I still plan and think and work hard, but I'm more on an even keel about it. Nothing is that awful anymore about a loss, and nothing's that wonderful about a win. Everything's pretty good. The only wonderful thing, truly wonderful, is being here."