Marla Culliso

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Cleveland County court reporter Marla Cullison has spent much of her free time during the last 13 years traveling to out-of-state hockey tournaments with her two sons.

Marla Cullison's dual roles as a hockey mom and a Cleveland County court reporter are almost inseparable.

On many occasions, she's traveling to out-of-state tournaments with her 17-year-old son Max while transcribing hearings or court orders required by judges or attorneys back home.

Cullison has been a single parent and hockey mom the past 13 years but she wouldn't trade it for anything. Her oldest son, Ryan, was 10 when he started playing the sport and Max was 4, as they entered the Oklahoma City Blazers' youth program.

"Ryan took to it and loved it," Cullison recalled. "But he's always been my daredevil. He started riding motorcycles at 3 and started racing when he was 4. He got into karate at one point and when he was a freshman in high school he went to bullfighting school in Kansas."

The elder son continues playing hockey in an adult league specifically for first responders such as firefighters and police officers. Ryan has been an EMT and is working to become a firefighter in Oklahoma.

Nowadays, Cullison continues the hockey traveling and working gig as younger son Max is still playing with the under-18 Oklahoma City Kings.

"The job really offers the flexibility I need," she said. "I put in my time on the road. A few weeks ago, we went to St. Louis and I worked as the hockey games were going on."

On another occasion, hockey took Cullison and her son to Florida after a lengthy murder trial, which required her to transcribe a witness' five-hour testimony. It was also her birthday, but the bulk of the trip was spent working.

"That's how it is, sometimes. You travel all that way, get to see some games but you're also working," she said, with a smile. "And, it was on my birthday."

Cullison has been a court reporter the past 23 years and currently is assigned to Cleveland County District Judge Jeff Virgin.

Cullison enjoys watching her sons play the fast moving, and sometimes violent game, which prompts her to maintain a healthy fear for potential injuries.

"There are some big boys playing out there and those helmets and sticks aren't soft," she said.

However, both sons have stood their ground over the years against opposing teams. Ryan stands 6-1 and Max is 5-11. Both are defensemen.

Max, a junior at Norman North High School, participates in the school's track and baseball programs and works out on his own during hockey's off-season.

"It (workouts) helps him give it and take it," Cullison said. "If you're playing hockey and you're not strong, you're going to get hurt."

Cullison recalled a few times when her sons required stitches due to hockey brawls and high-sticking incidents.

Traveling with her sons afforded Cullison the opportunity to visit at-length about important issues such as girls, life goals and potential careers.

"We usually drive to these tournaments, so I have their undivided attention," she said. "They're forced to be in the car with you for several hours, so that allowed me to ask a lot of questions."

Cullison and her sons have traveled by car to faraway destinations that might take as long as seven or eight hours.

"It took us seven hours on that trip to St. Louis and there have been others when we spent a long time in the car," she said.

The hockey trips have taken mom and sons to St. Louis, Denver, Wichita, Springfield, Dallas, Buffalo, and Florida to name a few.

"I always wanted to get their thoughts on a number of topics," Cullison said. "I always wanted to know their thoughts on family, school, things they're experiencing, anything I could get out of them."

The eldest son said he enjoyed traveling to tournaments with his mom and chauffeur because it provided a unique bonding experience.

"We would talk, talk, talk," Ryan Cullison said. "We developed a really good relationship. It was really a lot of fun. But, she also worked a lot before and after the games. That woman never sleeps. She would work through the night and day."

Marla Cullison said she's blessed to have been involved in her sons' athletic endeavors.

"It could be tough being a single mom raising children, working and traveling like we did, but it helped us. We are very tight."

After all these years, Cullison remains an avid hockey fan and appreciates the skills her sons have acquired.

"It's amazing to see them on the ice skating and then stopping on a dime," she said. "At the same time, they have control of the puck and then they turn around and head a different direction. Their stick handling is really good."

Like many parents involved in youth athletics, the tournament trips also served as vacations for Cullison and her sons.

"We never had time for real vacations," Ryan said. "We went to the top of the (Gateway) Arch in St. Louis when we were there, malls in Dallas, Niagara Falls in New York and we ate at some great restaurants in Chicago. Most of the time, we went out to eat at good restaurants."

Tim Farley 405-366-3539tfarley@normantranscript.com

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