While playing professional hockey, whether in North America or Europe, is the dream of some Canadian kids, Oyen’s Steven Kuhn was right at that cusp… and walked away.
Kuhn, who is currently the interim CAO for the town of Oyen has had an interesting route going from navigating in the offensive and defensive zone on the ice to navigating in board rooms.
Steve Kuhn was a well known commodity in the Western Hockey League as he captained the Spokane Chiefs and finished with a very respectable 67 points and 14 penalty minutes in 72 games in his last year in Spokane, the only team he played for in the WHL.
Kuhn decided getting a post secondary education was the way to go and went east to St. FX University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
I think that every single kid that plays hockey in Canada has dreams of playing in the NHL. I grew to love the game skating with my brothers in the rink my dad built for us in our backyard and at the arena in Oyen,” explains Kuhn. “I think that working hard in all aspects of life was instilled in us at a young age, and although I happened to excel at hockey, I took the same mentality into my schoolwork and other facets of life. As many young kids advance in hockey, the realization of how steep of a climb it is to get to those better leagues sets in, and although it remained a goal, I think it became more and more apparent how important it is to have a back-up plan and to make sure that there is something to draw back to when finishing up with hockey.
“I had seriously considered going to work right out of University, but realized I was not finished quite yet with the game or the lifestyle and did not want to pass up on the opportunity to experience different parts of the world. Two years overseas was enough for me to confidently feel comfortable turning to the next chapter of my life.”
Kuhn explains he grew up just outside of Oyen, on a farm near the crossroads of Highways 9 and 41. Kuhn lived in the area until grade 8, (about 14 years old) before he moved to Medicine Hat to live with his aunt and uncle to play minor hockey.
Kuhn played Bantam AAA, Midget 15’s and Midget AAA there before finishing his 16 year old season with the Olds Grizzlies. From the time he was 17-20 years old, he played for Spokane. During that time he I attended Crescent Heights and McCoy high schools in Medicine Hat, Olds and Ferris High School during that tenure. He says he was “fortunate enough” to be able to transfer home and finish his high school years at South Central High School in Oyen.
After the Western League, he decided to attend St. FX University where he continues with hockey in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (now U Sports). He obtained my Bachelor of Business Administration BBA with a major in accounting and gained some experience in the corporate world interning with Deloitte in Calgary. After finishing up with his degree, he decided to defer on the accounting world and continue playing hockey where he played in Paris and Caen, France for two seasons and Newcastle, Australia during the summer.
It was a great experience for him to see some different parts of the world before returning to Canada. Upon coming back to Alberta he had worked in a business development role for a company in the electrical industry based out of Edmonton for a year before accepting the opportunity to come home and work with the Town of Oyen.
Kuhn is currently nearing completion of my MBA focused on Community Economic Development offered through Cape Breton University.
It was an easy decision to come back to Oyen for Kuhn.Family and friends were a big reason that he wanted to return. He came back as much as he could, it was over 15 years since he had been here for an extended period of time and wanted to come back to his roots.
He loves the small town atmosphere of his home.
“I also have always appreciated everything that the community had done for me growing up and all the opportunities that it had provided for me, that I wanted to put myself in a position where I could give back in some fashion. I also love the culture and the sense of community that comes along with the small-town lifestyle, explains the down to earth Kuhn. “I love the lifestyle that comes with rural Alberta, and smaller communities in general really. Having had a chance to live in some larger centers, I really gained an appreciation for the sense of community that comes along with the small town and the type of culture that it offers. It was while I was at university in the small community of Antigonish when I realized that I wanted to return to the rural life; it offered a vivid picture of the benefits that smaller communities can provide. One of the biggest things that makes small towns tick is the willingness of people to dedicate time and effort to community programs and initiatives and work together to provide opportunities.
“I look back at all of the advantages that I had growing up here in Oyen, whether it was for sports or for schooling, and the amount of time that people had put in for that to happen, and it makes me extremely proud to have grown up in this area and very appreciative that I have been put in a position where I can give back.”
As role of interim CAO, he would love to do as much as he can for his hometown. There are so many things he would love to do, but will accomplish what he can.
“I’m just taking the new position day-by-day here and working towards creating a sustainable future. I’m very fortunate to have spent the last year and a half working with great people, learning a lot from my predecessor Noreen Rude and with Deb Kovitch who has a broad depth of knowledge of the Town,” he says. “There are several hats that come with the position, so for now I would like to build off of my current strengths and improve in the areas that I may lack in experience.”
Kuhn acknowledges there are many challenges, he is still hopeful for rural Alberta and believe that the area can flourish for several reasons. He know many people are attracted to the slower pace lifestyle that small communities can offer. Kuhn says that being a part of municipal government, he feels it is their responsibility to help in “providing high quality services and amenities and play our part in helping to attract families to the area and provide opportunities for healthy and prosperous lifestyles.”
While there have been a rough patch in both the oil and gas and agricultural industry, people have begun to look at both industry differently by finding different models of business. Kuhn says agriculture still plays a major role in the economy of the Oyen. Many value-added agricultural opportunities exist that he says local government hope will help to strengthen the economy.
“Although there are many challenges, I am still hopeful for rural Alberta and believe that the area can flourish for several reason. Many people are attracted to the slower pace lifestyle that small communities can offer,” states Kuhn. “Being part of municipal government, I feel like it is our responsibility to help in providing high quality services and amenities and play our part in helping to attract families to the area and provide opportunities for healthy and prosperous lifestyles.
“There have also been increasing challenges to the oil and gas and agricultural industry, but with that people have begun to look at industry different and find different models of business that also have a benefit to the community. With agriculture playing a major role in the economy of the Oyen, many value-added agricultural opportunities exist that we hope will help in strengthening the economy.”