1999 Russian Forward Khassan Al-Dzhilaui spent majority of his youth and junior development with Bradford Rattlers. After successful three years with Rattlers, Khassan was invited to CHL Drummondville Voltigeurs QMJHL. Following strong showing at CHL Training Camp and preseason, it was better opportunity to return to Russia and accept invitation to Moscow Dynamo MHL offer. He now is young prospect of KHL/VHL Dynamo in his fourth year with Dynamo system.
Interview with Khassan Al-Dzhilaui 2014-2018 Bradford Rattlers
Hassan, hello. Tell us how you got started in hockey.
My father is not from a hockey country - originally from Iraq. He never saw snow, he really wanted me to start hockey. He sent me to the Penguins children's hockey school. I really liked it, immediately hooked.
You played in Canada, in GMHL. Tell us what this league is.
“In addition to leaving for GMHL, I was finishing high school there. It turns out that I played and studied at the same time. I went to the training camp and received an offer to pursue a career there. There are many Europeans playing there. After GMHL he got into the youth team "Dynamo" Moscow.
Why try yourself to Canada?
When I was 15 years old, I was offered to move to Canada to learn English, play for the Bradford Rattlers and live with Canadian billet-family. I decided to go for it and played in GMHL. It’s a European league, there aren’t many Canadians there. In CHL there’s a 2-player limit per team for imports but GMHL gives European kids a chance. The level of play in the league is comparable to JHL-B. The biggest difference is the size of the rink. Stepan Timofeyev was another JHL player that we had on my team. He used to play there for Sakhalinskie Akuly. There were a lot of Swedes on my team. We spoke English with each other.
How does GMHL compare to JHL?
You can’t compare GMHL to Junior Hockey League. After all, the skill level is higher in JHL and the pace of the game is faster. GMHL is more about getting experience before making the jump to CHL.
After successful three years with Rattlers, Khassan was invited to Drummondville Voltigeurs QMJHL (CHL) Training camp. Following strong showing at CHL Training Camp and preseason, it was better opportunity to return to Russia and accept invitation to Moscow Dynamo MHL offer.
How did it go in Canada?
This season when it became obvious that I wasn’t going to CHL, my agent offered me to go back to Russia. MHC Dynamo were short on forwards, so I went to a try-out and the coaches liked me.
Is GMHL very different from Russian junior leagues?
This league is probably stronger than our junior league, but a small amount weaker than the MHL. GMHL makes sense to play if you are 17-18 years old. You can gain experience there, but this is not enough, you need to progress every day.
Did you live in Canada separately? Are the families Paid for this? Are they living in private houses?
No, in a family that hosts foreign players. They help to adapt and monitor the regime. For example, to be always at home at 10 o'clock.But they don't do it for the sake of money, every family that accepts a player is real hockey fans. They are interested in having a player with them. They enjoy it. Yes, everyone in Canada lives mainly in private houses.
In what city did you live?
Bradford. It's 40 minutes north of Toronto, next to Barrie. Small town, population about 40 thousand people.
Canada is famous for the fact that many small towns have local clubs that they root for.
Yes, there are often teams in such towns. And the residents are interested in hockey. You drive past houses, and in every other yard there is a hockey goal. In Canada, everyone is a hockey fan.
Did a lot of fans come to the games?
There were definitely 500-1000 people. Depending on where you played. Once we went to a match in Quebec, where the stands were completely filled, as if there were more than 1000 people.
How did you get into the MHL?
They offered to go to see the team. The coaches were ready to take on the first week, but in the end, the contract was signed only after 1.5 months.
This is your first VHL season. Are there any differences from the MHL?
For me, there are no differences, everything is the same. Perhaps it's only psychologically harder that you move into a more adult league.