AVON, CT – Four young Greek-Americans are making a name for themselves playing ice hockey at their preparatory school, the 92-year-old Avon Old Farms. The all-boy boarding school, located 12 miles west of Hartford, is home to 400 boys nine months of the year and is known for its ice hockey program which has won eight Division 1 New England Championships, five between 2004 and 2010. Avon alumni include NHL players such as Jonathan Quick, Chris Higgins, Cam Atkinson, and Nick Bonino as well as NHL Hall of Famer Brian Leetch.
Hoping to follow in those footsteps are Greek-Americans Drew Tsakounis, 15, Nick Young (Yantzoglou), 17, Alexandros Aslanidis, 18, and Stef Miklakos (Mihelakos), 18. The four Greek-American student-athletes had never met until the fall of 2018 when they realized that besides playing their favorite sport, ice hockey, they had something else in common, their Greek heritage. They shared their story and a bit about their background with The National Herald.
Andrew “Drew” Tsakounis is from Arlington, VA. The Tsakounis family is originally from the Island of Kastellorizo, in the Dodecanese. Drew’s great-grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1930’s. They settled in Queens, NY and raised a family. Drew’s Pappou and grandmother still live in Queens. Drew’s parents lived in Athens from 1999 to 2000 and his older brother Zach was born there.
Drew’s hockey career started when a coach was in desperate need to fill a spot on a Mite team and asked Drew to join. At seven years old, Drew’s first practice was also his first time on skates. From that day on, he was hooked. He loves everything about the game of hockey. Drew is now a sophomore at Avon Old Farms and is committed to play college hockey at Penn State.
Nick Young (Yantzoglou) started his hockey career at three years old in Raleigh, NC. After many years as a Junior Hurricane, he felt in order to further his hockey career he needed to go north to continue to play at a competitive level. He has attended Avon Old Farms for three years and loves it there.
Nick’s grandfather Emmanuel (Manny) Yantzoglou came to the United States in 1957 from Piraeus when he was 12 years old, with his family. He was the youngest of seven boys and after a number of years, his eldest brother decided to Americanize their name, thus changing it to Young. Nick has some athletic family members, including his uncle who played college basketball at Connecticut College under the name Steve Young, played in Greece and on the Greek National team, and coached in Greece for years.
Alexandros (Alex) Aslanidis’ father’s side of the family is from Thessaloniki. Alex’s dad immigrated to U.S. with his father, mother, and sister on November 25, 1971. Alex’s grandfather is Sotirios Aslanidis, grandmother Chrysoula Aslanidis, and his aunt is Anastasia Aslanidou.
Alex grew up in New Jersey and came to Avon Old Farms two years ago. He has had an extremely successful career at Avon as a goalie and is committed to play hockey at Providence College. Alex is the tallest of the Greek-Americans at 6’5”.
Stef Miklakos (Mihelakos) started playing hockey at age six and has never stopped. Moving from AA to triple AAA travel teams and winning the State Championship with his local public high school team before transferring to Avon Old Farms as a junior, Stef has a commitment to West Point Academy and will be entering after playing one year of junior hockey.
His father grew up in Piraeus and left Greece at 17 to attend the University of Arizona in 1969. Miklakos has extended family both in Astoria and Piraeus which has given him this great advantage of staying exposed to all things Greek as well as summer vacations visiting Greece. He was baptized Greek Orthodox and spent many years in Sunday school as well as the Greek after school program which helped him gain a deeper understanding of the culture, customs, and the language. He has an older brother, George, who lives in Westchester.
All four of the young men have grown close this past year especially since discovering their common heritage. The bond they have established will undoubtedly keep them connected for years to come.