Ilja Demidov isnt that different from most hockey players. He has dreams about someday playing in the National Hockey League. Its just that his soundtrack is a little bit different.
The young Russian defenseman loves electronic dance music -- the spacey grooves that blend hypnotic and atmospheric beats into a musical style knownas trance. I love that stuff, says Demidov, 22, who has traveled Europe, from Moscow to the Spanish island of Ibiza, to experience the psychedelic sound that mixes elements of house, hardcore and techno. The music is so good. It gives you an unbelievable feeling and, because there are not many words, everyone is just dreaming and dancing and having fun. You get the nice melodies flowing and you see everybody is happy. Demidov -- his name is pronounced ill-ee-ya dee-mee-dov-- knows first-hand the power of the music. A couple of years ago, he spun his own brand of trance at InStation, a gigantic day-long festival held in Moscows Gorky Park that featured Paul Oakenfold, among others.
Billed as DJ Ill, Demidov pulled down $3,000 for his 45-minute set in front of 50,000 people. Standing behind the turntable, you see thousands of people, all moving like one, he says. Its unbelievable. Demidov was a last-minute replacement, thanks to his contacts in the music industry in Russia. I have lots of friends who write music and are big DJs in Moscow, or own record labels. That he has friends in higher places is no surprise, considering that it runs in the family. His father, Andrei, was a bodyguard for Russian president Boris Yeltsin before retiring to run his own security business a couple of years ago. Demidov never met Yeltsin -- It was not allowed, he says -- but his father, a military lawyer who worked his way up in the old KGB, did allow him to visit the Russian leaders summer home and ride his horses. It is a nice place, about 35 kilometers from Moscow, he says.
Last season was Demidovs first taste of professional hockey in North America, but he spent the previous three years playing for Oshawa in the Ontario Hockey League -- which explains why his command of English is better than other Russian players. His love of electronic dance music is explained by the old record collection of his mother, Tatiana. I would listen to her old disco records, says Demidov, who carried about 400 CDs with him to Grand Rapids. Kraftwerk and Zodiac are two of my favorites. I still listen to them. While his sister, Dasha, has an appreciation for his choice of music, it seems many of his teammates do not. They yell, What is that?! Turn it off! Then they turn on their country music, says Demidov, who is somewhat mystified by the appeal of the Nashville sound. Demidov makes his own music, spinning records and CDs on a computer, electronic sampling equipment and a Yamaha keyboard, the latter purchased with money that he got as a bonus while playing for the Moscow Dynamo team. He describes his own music as intellectual in that he finds it mind-expanding in a way that other people might use drugs. Some people just sit and look at walls, but its not hypnotic to me, he says.
While his goal is to play in the NHL -- former Red Wings Slava Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov were among his favorite players -- he knows what he wants to do when his playing days are over. Music is probably what I will do after hockey, he says. Even so, Demidov hopes that many years in the game lie ahead. Last season gave me the experience of playing in a good league, says Demidov, who appeared in 54 games with the Griffins. Im ready to play this year, mentally and physically.
He would like to increase his ice time this season, but understands that he will have to earn his playing time. In a way, its like being a successful DJ. If you have a good name and play good music, you get more work, he says. Of course, he knows that its not that easy and that he will have to be more focused. "(Griffins coach) Bruce (Cassidy) say last year, Ilja, you need to concentrate. This year, I will try harder. For Demidov, the path to the NHL may be positively en-trancing.