Hall of Famer Gordie Howe and two of his sons famously played professional hockey in Texas during the WHL era in the ’70s. And today, the Dallas Stars are one of the top teams in the NHL, so it’s safe to say hockey has arrived in the Lone Star State.
Still, Texas isn’t often thought of as a hockey hotbed, but there’s more players from the second largest state in America than you might imagine – including Virden Oil Capitals’ netminder Sean Kuehn, who was recently named the MJHL/MGEU goaltender for December ─ an award he also won in November.
Heading into the second week of January, Kuehn was among league leaders for netminders in all statistical categories – a 2.01 GAA, and .926 save percentage, and three shutouts.
Like many goalies before him, Kuehn said his stats are the result of great team efforts.
“It’s great, and I have to give credit to the guys in front of me,” he said. “It looks good on me.”
So, just how did the native of Flower Mound, Texas, end up in southern Manitoba?
“I played with the Carolina Junior Hurricanes before coming to Canada,” said Kuehn. “Our coach used to play for the Saskatoon Contacts (midget AAA team), and we got into the Mac’s Tournament (in Calgary) from that. And we made it all the way to the championship game.”
That got Kuehn noticed, and soon Canadian junior teams came calling. After a couple of pit stops in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Kuehn landed in Virden where he’s been lights out since joining the MJHL.
“Originally I was in Lloydminster, but I ended up with Virden, which seemed like a good fit for me, with the high quality of the league and my playing time.”
As for how he started playing hockey in a state known as a real American football hotbed, Kuehn said he simply fell in love with the ice when he got his first chance to skate.
“My dad grew up being a hockey fan,” said Kuehn. “And when I was really young my best friend at the time was doing learn to skate classes, and so I went along with him. From there, I just fell in love with the game.”
Kuehn, who is a non-giant at 5’10 and 165 pounds, relies on his speed to help him get into the right spot to stop the puck.
“I’m a bit of a hybrid – I try to stay on my feet as long as I can, since I’m a little bit smaller, I want to take up as much of the net as I can,” he said.
The Oil Capitals are in another battle for home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. While they advanced last year from the No. 5 spot, they Oil Capitals are determined this year to be a top four team when the playoffs get under way in March.
“Last year we were in fifth place and we chased Winkler (for fourth place) for a while,” said Kuehn. “We won that series, but home ice definitely would have helped. It’s always something you want.”