Connor McDavid on his historic trip to China

Photo provided by BioSteel.

Connor McDavid looked at all the different food items during a recent promotional trip to Beijing, China and couldn’t figure out what to eat.

“There was some stuff that I was way too scared to try,” McDavid said via phone Friday.

But the 19-year-old hockey prodigy eventually sucked it up and tried what he called the ‘Beijing Duck’ and enjoyed it.

“I was taking a little bit of time off. I had just finished  the World Championships. I wasn’t too stressed about (eating),” McDavid said. “I had just played a month of hockey and was going to take some time off anyway. I didn’t worry about it too much there.”

The Edmonton Oilers forward went to China, following Canada's victory at the World Championships in Russia, to help promote BioSteel – a Canadian sports nutrition company. The trip went from May 24-27, and according to McDavid it was more about spreading BioSteel’s message than growing the game of hockey. But without knowing it he did help the NHL’s image in China by being the first active player to officially visit the country on promotional business.

“It’s not like I was going to China to promote hockey. It was nothing like that. I was simply going over there to promote a product and help with their launch and as well as gain some kind of culture and kind of see the world. It’s not every day you go to China,” McDavid said. “It’s a good opportunity I wanted to take advantage of.”

While he was there, McDavid went to a local middle school and played around with kids on an artificial ice surface. He noted that it was hot in the location and the students were in full pads and skates. This made the whole event surreal to the Richmond Hill, Ontario native.

Photo provided by BioSteel.
Photo provided by BioSteel.

“It was really weird. It was kind of like in a sports complex/classroom area,” McDavid said. “It was 35 degrees (Celsius) in there and there was fake ice and kids were skating around in full gear, just dying of heat. It was a different atmosphere than what most Canadians are used to playing hockey.”

Along with the product launch, McDavid toured the area. He went to the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City and said he was mostly unnoticed in the touristy spots – which was a nice change of pace for the young superstar.

“It’s such a different world. I think that was a real eye opener for me, how different it is compared to Canada and the States. I think you just learn a bunch of different things and get to see how other people live and all that. It was a really neat experience to go over there and experience all that,” McDavid said. “I for sure feel so fortunate and so grateful for all the opportunities that come up through all these different things and very lucky to be in the position I am.”

Photo of Connor McDavid provided by BioSteel. 
Photo of Connor McDavid provided by BioSteel.

Just last June the first Chinese born hockey player was picked in the NHL Draft. According to the IIHF, China has 48 indoor rinks and a total of 1,225 players. Their men’s world ranking is 38th and women’s world ranking in 16th.

By comparison, hockey in Canada has 721,504 playersand 2,631 indoor rinks according to the IIHF.

“Hockey in China is, there’s definitely a market there for it. I think it definitely is growing,” McDavid said.

Will that growth include the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics? The NHL is reportedly keen on going to China, because of its large economy and population of 1.382 billion people.

But the league has struggled with trying to find a solution on the South Korean Games in 2018, which is a less appetizing option for the NHL, for a glut of reasons including insurance for players and visibility based off time zone differential.

McDavid would likely be a part of Team Canada for both years so the growth of hockey in both areas affect him greatly.

“Obviously I have a little bit of a biased opinion on that because I definitely want to see hockey players from the NHL competing in that. I think it would work just fine. It would definitely be a hit over there,” McDavid said of the Games in China. “I know from the few people I’ve been talking to in Beijing is they definitely want hockey to be part of the Olympics with the NHL players so I think it would do well.”

Now that McDavid is back in Ontario training for the next season he gets to see some of his friends and plays the ‘what I did on my summer vacation'

So far, the China trip has been one of this biggest highlights, and arguably his most important stop as one of the game’s young ambassadors.

“They don’t look at (my travels) any differently. It’s like ‘oh yeah, Connor’s in China and will be back whenever.’ It’s not like they think anything of anything of it,” McDavid said. “I definitely am not a cocky kid or anything like that. I try not to be that way and they’ve been my buddies fro a long time. I’m not looking to show off or anything. They definitely don’t care who I am and I’m lucky to have those buddies in my life.”


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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!