Veteran Voice gives ECHL fans the chance to get to know a veteran in the League ahead of the 2018-19 season. In this installment, the ECHL spoke with Steven Kaunisto of the Tulsa Oilers, who enters his seventh ECHL season in 2018-19.
Name: Steven Kaunisto
Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, MI
ECHL Team: Tulsa Oilers
ECHL Season: Seventh
2017-18 Stats: 71 GP, 6 G, 23 A, 29 PTS
ECHL: You've spent time with a couple of different ECHL teams over your career - what made you decide to re-sign with Tulsa for this season?
Steven Kaunisto: It's a great area and the fans are great. Coach Murray put a lot of trust in me when we had a lot of guys called up so I was able to get my confidence back where I was, after lacking a bit the last few years. He definitely helped me get back to where I was, so it was an easy decision to go back.
ECHL: You had career record numbers last season and then earned Defensive Player of the Year honors for the Oilers. What would you say contributed to such a successful season for you?
SK: The guys and the team in general. Everyone was really supportive and we all got along really well. There weren’t any cliques or anything like that so I think that helped out off the ice, and I think it transmitted on the ice where guys were able to play with anyone. So the team in general helped me out a lot.
ECHL: As a veteran in the League and leader in the dressing room, what's your message to the younger guys on playing professional hockey and the nuances of the ECHL?
SK: It's a lot of travel but you get used to it. It's a grind every year and every guy that plays the sport loves it. It's not the easiest at times, but if you're going to do it, you're going to enjoy your time. I've been playing professional hockey almost nine years and I still enjoy getting on the bus and hanging out with the guys and everything that comes along with it. You have to enjoy your time - sometimes things don't go the way you want them to, but you can only control what you can control.
ECHL: In all your years of professional hockey, what's been your most memorable achievement?
SK: I played for the Denver Cutthroats in the Central League and reached the League Finals with them. Making it to the Finals was a huge thing for me.
ECHL: How have you been spending your summer?
SK: I did a lot of work on my house. My wife Abby and I remodeled our kitchen and we painted the exterior of our house ourselves so we've been really busy with that. I like being able to help out whenever I can, since when I'm away for hockey she has to do it all herself.
ECHL: What are you most looking forward to for 2018-19?
SK: I'm excited that Coach Murray had a full year to plan the team he wanted to. Last year he came in late in the summer and couldn't really do what he wanted to with some of the guys. Now he's got a full year and he's got all the guys that he wants. We have a strong affiliation with San Antonio and St. Louis, so we could be getting guys from there. I think our team is going to be a lot more competitive and I think we're going to be doing a lot better than last year.