30.06.2023 в 14:00

Belye Medvedi goalie Ruslan Khazheyev: “Chelyabinsk is the city I was raised in. It has produced many famous hockey players and it is an honor to represent this city”

The netminder made his Junior Hockey League playoff debut and played for the Russian national team.

Ruslan Khazheyev is an innate of Chelyabinsk. He started playing hockey as S.Makarov Olympic Reserve school trainee and then joined the Traktor school. In the 2021/22 season, he made his JHL debut and played ten games. The 2022/23 season was the player’s first full season at the junior level. Khazheyev averaged the most ice time among the five goalies of Belye Medvedi, he appeared in 23 regular-season games compiling a goals-against average of 2.38 and save percentage of 92.3.

In an interview with the official JHL website, the player talked about competition among goalies, playing for the National Junior Team at the Future Cup and his save that entered the top 20 saves of the 2022/23 season.

“We had healthy competition”

– How can you evaluate the 2022/23 season?
– It was a controversial season. I thought I would perform better, even though I’ve moved my stats in a better direction. The same goes for Belye Medvedi: we were the top-place team until the New Year, but then something went wrong. We couldn’t hit upon any satisfactory explanation to that situation, it was just not working out. We could have achieved a better result.

– What difficulties did you have?
– I hardly had any, the coaches trusted me and the teammates were helping me. It was a valuable season in terms of the experience gained. I had my first full season in the JHL, played more games, got the feel of playoff games. Playing elimination games makes you understand that every mistake can be fatal. The atmosphere is different, you face more pressure, but you do enjoy it.

– How do you analyze your games?
– I get back to my place, rest a bit and spare some ten minutes to review positive moments of the game. The following day, I discuss all the mistakes with the goalie coach and continue to work and prepare for further games. It’s always interesting to see how many saves you made in a game. I don’t pay attention to this during games, because once you start counting, you will definitely give up a goal.

– Do you prefer facing more or fewer shots?
– I prefer getting more shots a game. You get in a rhythm, you get a feel for it. The fewer shots you face, the more difficult your job is. Well, I do stay focused no matter how many shots I face. When you get many shots, you are always ready for the next one, it is better for a goalie. You stop the first ten, and then you have the hot hand and enjoy saves.


“It is an honor for me to represent Chelyabinsk”

– How did you start playing hockey?
– When I was four years old, my parents asked me what sport I would like to play. I don’t know why, but I said that I wanted to play hockey. I think I saw it on TV, especially since Chelyabinsk is a hockey city, so this sport invited my attention to itself. I started skating with a chair as a skating aid, then I got bored and wanted to quit. But my father told me to learn to skate first and then quit if I still want to. After a while, my desire to quit hockey was not there anymore. I started as a skater, but after a year and a half or two the team needed a goalie and I decided to take the initiative and play goal.

– What other sports did you play when you were a child?
– I played some handball, but it was more of a hobby. I didn’t really enjoy playing that sport. I like football and basketball and always play these sports with my friends in the summer. I cheer for the Golden State Warriors basketball team. I take off hat to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant for their commitment and work ethic, Stephen Curry is an incredible basketball player. As for football players, I follow Lionel Messi.

– And who are your favorite goalies?
– Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ilya Sorokin, Marc-Andre Fleury. In my opinion, Sorokin is the gold standard of goalie stance, he is outstanding. Andrei Vasilevskiy is great at using his size and thinking out of box. Marc-Andre Fleury is a legend, he has a style of his own which is really appealing to me.

– What type of person are you on and off the ice?
– It’s important to distinguish between hockey and everyday life. When I am on the ice, I am more focused and aggressive because I don’t want to lose. I used to be the person who would rise to provocations, but I paid attention to this and with the years passing I realized that I was wasting energy and spraying myself too thin. It is better to concentrate and demonstrate everything through deeds not through words.

– You have been playing in Chelyabinsk throughout your career. Were there any options for you to move to a different city?
– When I was a S.Makarov Olympic Reserve school trainee, there was a period of time when I didn’t get to play games on a regular basis and that was when I was considering moving to a different city. But then I made it to Traktor and continued to play here, which I have no regrets about. Chelyabinsk is the city I was raised in. My family and friends live here. Our city has produced many famous hockey players and it is an honor for me to represent it.

“We are to keep working hard and hope that we will return to international competitions and prove ourselves”

– The glove save you made during the game against Stalnye Lisy is in the top 20 saves of the 2022/23 season. Tell us about that episode.
– I could have done better at stopping the shot, but the pass came back into the slot instead. I realized that the opponent was about to bank the puck and there was no time for me to move around the crease, so I tried to make at least some move. I was lucky that the forward hit my glove, it was a mere fortuitous combination of circumstances. As a result, I made a spectacular save, but it isn’t the primary thing for me. The rarer such situations happen, the better. You might stop one shot of that kind but give up ten of those.

– Who is the toughest forward to play against?
– I won’t name anyone in particular. When a player makes a shot, I don’t pay attention to who exactly is shooting. I can say that Gleb Trikozov from Omskie Yastreby and Maxim Bykov from Irbis shoot really hard.

– How did it feel to play hockey in May?
– I saw my name on the extended list of the national team and started getting ready. I was called up to the Kontinental Hockey League team for a few weeks, I practiced with pros. It is a completely different level, the players are much stronger and faster. Then I practiced individually with the goalie coach. And we also played some scrimmage games during the training camp in Novogorsk, it made it easier for me to get back into the game shape.

– You are ranked seventh among European Prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft. What do you think about it?
– I think that it would be nice to get drafted, but if it doesn’t happen, then so be it. I don’t dwell on it. I do have my favorite NHL teams: Tampa Bay, Carolina, Florida. Carolina is a young offensive-minded team. As for Tampa, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Mikhail Sergachev have built a great dynasty, it’s a pleasure to watch them play. And Florida is based in Miami, living there is a dream of mine. But I don’t mind being picked by any other team.

– Did any of the clubs contact you?
– Yes, I talked to 11 clubs. I was asked some standard questions, it was pretty easy. For example, questions about my strengths and weaknesses, about the way I prepare for games. Those were video or audio calls from general managers and coaches. I’m still learning English, so we had an interpreter assisting us.


“I say jokingly that knowing how to cook pasta with chicken is a must for my girlfriend”

– Do you feel jittery before games?
– I used to feel jittery before my first games in the JHL and in the playoffs. But I realized that I needed to get out of my own head, hit the ice and enjoy playing hockey. I listen to music, have a few laughs with the guys during the warm-up to take my mind off things. I don’t go into my shell before games, I like talking to everyone.

– What types of music do you listen to?
– I like the music which is not too popular among hockey players, I listen to both modern tracks and ‘90s songs: Grigory Leps, Stas Mikhaylov, Eminem, 2PAC. I often listen to Rocky soundtrack. I like the melody and imagine that I am in the movie character’s shoes.

– What are your hobbies?
– I am fond of watching movies, mainly comedies, action movies, biopics. The movie I watched recently and enjoyed is Point Break, it’s a thrilling story about an FBI agent and bank robbers. I am not a big fan of series, but I can recommend watching The Last Dance about the Chicago Bulls basketball club, the series revolves around the career of Michael Jordan, building the team and winning titles. It is an interesting series for those who love sports. I also like Manifest series, it centers on the passengers and crew of a commercial airliner who suddenly reappear after being presumed dead for several years.