A deep sense of pride swept over Conrad Haché at the sight of his son Braden garbed in the stripes of a hockey referee for the first time.
He was bearing witness to his child following in his footsteps. Conrad, the director of officiating with the Ontario Hockey League since 2007, served as a National Hockey League official from 1994 to 2001.
Since making his Saturday-morning debut in a game a few seasons ago in his hometown of Newmarket, Ont., the younger Haché has officiated close to 50 Novice and Atom contests – while also pursuing his playing career, which is thriving.
After starring in Minor Midget AAA for the York-Simcoe Express last season, Haché was a fourth-round pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, taken 63rd overall by the Kingston Frontenacs, and earned an invite to Canada’s national under-17 development camp this week in Calgary.
Adding officiating to his résumé was a case of a father’s passion rubbing off on his son.
“My dad loved being a referee so much that it inspired me to want to do it, too,” says the 16-year-old defenceman.
While parents hurling insults in his direction caught Haché off guard at first, his father, who became a referee himself at 14, said his son has quickly developed a strong on-ice presence as an official.
“He has a thick skin and he understands every facet of the game so well that he has done well as an official,” Conrad says.
Stepping into the skates of a referee has made an impact on Haché’s playing career. While he doesn’t label himself as someone who once routinely protests calls, he says being a referee has encouraged him to exhibit even more respect towards officials.
Greater on-ice discipline and a strengthened bond with his father are two of the gifts officiating has given Braden. Being around wide-eyed young hockey players is another.
“It is great to be around these kids and to have an opportunity to teach them more about things like face-offs and offsides,” he says. “Their passion and energy do rub off on me.”
In addition to his officiating duties, Haché gives back to the game by instructing younger players at hockey camps and learn-to-skate programs.
“The game gives you so much that it is important to give back,” his father says. “If you can give back at that [young] age it is even better as the younger players look up to them. Some of the Novice players were so excited when they heard he was going to be drafted as a player as they only knew him as a referee.”
Haché isn’t sure what his level of involvement in officiating will be next season. Turning 16 years old makes him eligible to referee Peewee games, but a potential rookie OHL season with the Frontenacs will take priority.
Whether he is on the ice next season or not, Haché is grateful for having another avenue to be in the game for life – just like his dad.