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Demetrios Koumontzis and Arizona State's trek to China proved very successful on and off the ice

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The sights. The sounds. The traffic gridlock.

The occasional challenging situation to overcome. The vast abundance of riches worth seeing, investigating, discovering.

Ten months earlier, of course, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan and the Flames went through the identical experience during their O.R.G. NHL China Games trek.

"Seeing the Great Wall, visiting the Forbidden City, some of those special, special places most people never get the chance to, was pretty cool,'' enthuses Calgary draft pick Demetrios Koumontzis of his visit to Beijing as part of the Arizona State hockey junket.

"Getting to do it with your teammates, your friends, made it even more special."

Mirroring the Flames' journey of last September, the Sun Devils travelling party scaled the Great Wall at the Mutianyu section, rising to the centuries-old fortification via a chairlift and bombing back down to the base on the toboggan ride at the No. 6 Watchtower.

"The views from the Great Wall were … spectacular,'' enthuses Koumontzis. "You just can't beat them.

"Walking through the (Forbidden City) there were tons of people, so many of them Chinese. Kind of cool seeing so many people visiting somewhere famous inside their own country.

"Like Washington, D.C., here in the States."

The 11-day trip proved a triumph competitively, too, the desert college kids trimming Kunlun Red Star 6-1 in the Fu Xing Cup championship game at Ao Zhong Ice Sports Club.

Arizona State finished the tournament at 4-0-1, outscoring its opposition - which included the Red Star, along with Yemak Angorsk, O.R.G. Beijing and Tsen Tou Jilin city of the Supreme Hockey League, Russia's second-highest professional level - 21-12.



"I think,'' confesses Koumontzis "at the beginning we were a bit … I wouldn't say nervous, exactly. A little uncertain, maybe. Some of these guys were older, they play pro hockey and we had a lot of new players on our team.

"Then when we got out there in that first game, we realized we could hold our own. They try and play a little more of a skill game. We definitely hit more and tried to make the games a little more gritty.

"By the last game, when we beat Kunlun, it was kind of eye-opening for us. Like: 'Wow. We've got a good group here. This is going to carry on to the NCAA season.'

"I think we were the by far the best team there. But we still had to come prepared.

"If we were halfway through our season, I'm sure we would've done even better."

For Koumontzis, Calgary's fourth round pick in 2018, the Chinese odyssey arrived on the back of participation in the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase staged at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., making him the first player in school program history to receive the illustrious invite.

"Quick turnaround,'' he recalls. "I left Michigan after the Showcase, flew back to Phoenix, then the next morning left my apartment around 4 a.m. to hop on a plane to L.A. and from there to China.

"I was a day or so later arriving than everybody else.

"A lot of travel but well worth it.

"Getting the chance to play with some of the best players in the United States and showcase yourself to the coaches (at the World Junior event) was an unbelievable experience. Everyone got along so well. It's good to know you can play at that level.

"Hopefully I'm back in December.

"We've always watched those games as a family. Such a profound tournament.

"The Tyler Parsons year was just an unbelievable tournament to see. My goalie from back home in Minnesota is a HUGE Tyler Parsons fan. When Calgary drafted me, he was like: 'You're going to get to meet Tyler Parsons! That is SO cool!'"

Hopefully, many cool experiences, in hockey and out, await Demetrios Koumontzis, who enters his second year at Arizona State looking to build on a 20-point freshman season.


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"The trip to China is something I'll never forget,'' he assures you. "So many people on the streets. Not a lot of rules driving on the roads.

"Just going to the mall across the street from the hotel and trying to order food was fun, pointing at the menu because no one spoke English and everyone staring at us because we were the only Americans in the whole building.

"We had some free time and when we were on our, we were on our own. We were lucky enough to have a teammate who was born in Beijing (Peter Zhong) and he helped a lot when we were out all together.

"When were out without him, though, it was definitely a challenge. But in a good way. You work through things.

"From a hockey standpoint, it was so great in creating team bonding, in getting to know your teammates well. I'm sure (the Flames') guys said the same thing.

"Such a good experience, from visiting Great Wall to going to eat lunch.

"And then to win the tournament …

"Everything we could have hoped for."

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