Getting to know: Justin Hache
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze Head Coach has completed his blue-line for the 2018/9 campaign with 24 year-old Canadian Justin Hache. Standing 6’2” and 200lbs, the native of Petit-Roche New Brunswick, by his own admission is known to be a stay at home defenceman, but judging by the evidence of his junior, QJMHL and first year in Europe he carries an effective offensive punch as well.
Hache is a former teammate of another new Blaze defenceman Trey Lewis, the pair playing midget AAA hockey together briefly with the Miramichi Rivermen in 2009/10. Following two years with the Rivermen, the latest Blaze recruit who represented Canada Atlantic under-17’s on two occasions was taken by Shawinigan Cataractes, 8th overall in the 2010 QJMHL draft.
The first rounder would get straight into his draft teams line-up for 2010/11 and in his rookie season had a strong showing with 3 goals, 12 assists in 37 league appearances, followed by 2 assists in 10 playoff outings. Finishing 4th in the regular season and being eliminated in the Conference semi-final was an indication of what was to come for the Cataractes.
In his second season of pulling on the blue and gold sweater, Shawinigan would dominate the ‘Q’ with a 45-16-7 record and be crowned 2011/12 QJMHL regular season Champions. Hache’s personal regular season tally was 2 goals, 16 assists and an impressive +27 rating. A shock came for Shawinigan in the playoffs though, defeated by Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the 2nd round with the Blaze defenceman scoring once in 11 playoff appearances. Success to end the season followed though, with Hache icing 6 times as Shawinigan defeated the London Knights 2–1 in overtime to win the Memorial Cup for the first time ever in franchise history.
Other milestones for the champions included them; becoming just the second team after the 2009 Windsor Spitfires to win the Memorial Cup after playing in the tiebreaker game; the first host to win the Memorial Cup at home since the Vancouver Giants in 2007; and the first QMJHL host to win the Memorial Cup since the Hull Olympiques in 1997.
Reflecting on the experience, Justin remarked:
“Winning the Memorial Cup was just an amazing feeling. It is hard to describe, but I am glad that I had the chance to do it on our home ice. It made the experience a whole lot better.”
During the season, Hache had been traded and after the Memorial Cup final he would move to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles for 2012/13, a change of scenery that he was looking forward to:
“I was happy to come to Cape Breton because I knew I was going to have more ice time. I feel like I did what I had to do in Shawinigan and coming to Cape Breton is just a fresh start. I knew a lot about Cape Breton because my billet brother in Shawinigan, Maxemilien LeSieur use to play for the Screaming Eagles.”
A busy summer for Hache, also saw him drafted in the 7th round of the NHL draft by the Phoenix Coyotes.
“At one point at the draft, I kind of gave up there and was ready to go home and get over it, but finally I waited to the end and it happened,” Justin said. “It was such a relief. After giving up and then getting drafted, it makes it better I think.”
His first season in Cape Breton was to see the pendulum swing in terms of his team’s league results. One the one hand Hache saw an increase in ice-time and was one of three players to play in all 68 games. He would finish fourth-leading scorer with 7 goals and 26 assists and his 33 points led all Cape Breton defensemen. On the other hand however, the Eagles would finish last in the ‘Q’ that season winning just 14 games.
For his senior year, the Canadian would be given an A, and have a career season in terms of points production, scoring 5 goals, 41 assists with a healthy +15 rating. His efforts would see him rewarded with a second All-Star team spot and he was awarded the Kevin Lowe trophy for the best Defensive Defenceman. The Eagles would get to the post-season but were swept in the first round by Gatineau after 3 games. In those 3 appearances, Hache would register an assist.
Having signed a three-year entry level NHL contract with the ‘Yotes’ and following Cape Bretons elimination from the playoffs, Hache would join AHL side Portland Pirates for the final 6 games of the 2013/14 regular season.
On his drafting, Greg Komarnicky of leagueittous.com commented:
“Hache is a stellar physical presence on the blue line. He brings experience and leadership everywhere he goes. He can make a great 1st pass to get the play moving and to get the puck out of the zone. He is very calm in his own end and is not afraid to take advantage of his big body and get dirty from time to time.”
Entering his first full season with Coyotes organisation (2014/15), Hache returned to Portland, spending the whole campaign with their primary affiliate. This was the year Phoenix re-branded becoming the Arizona Coyotes. After 60 regular season games with the Pirates, he would put up 6 assists but he did not feature in the post-season as Portland were knocked out in 5 games.
Following the Coyotes signing a new agreement, moving their AHL affiliate away from Portland, Justin would once again pull on sweater with a bird of prey as the moniker, joining the Springfield Falcons. Despite Hache finding himself a +5 with 2 goals and 12 assists in 67 games, the season as a whole would be a difficult one with the Falcons winning just 26 of 76 games.
For 2016/17, the new Blaze man would find himself on the move again. Splitting the season between the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL (5 games played with 1 assist) and the Rapid City Rush in the ECHL (29 games played, 2 goals, 7 assists). On February 1st, Hache was traded to the Dallas Stars and spent time with both the Texas Stars of the American League (12 games played with 1 assist) and the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL (8 games played with 2 assists). He finished the campaign with a trip to the playoffs with Idaho and had 2 assists in 8 Kelly Cup playoff games.
In the summer of 2017, with hopes of playing in the NHL dwindling, Hache would opt for a new challenge, moving to Europe with
Hache would opt for a new challenge for the 17/18 campaign and would make his first trip to ply his trade overseas joining SønderjyskE in the Danish Metal Ligaen. The team based out of Vojens, had Elite League alumni Kyle Wharton and Jace Coyle on the blue-line and the side were excited to obtain his services with Sports Manager, Kim Lykkeskov stating:
“Justin Hache is an incredibly exciting player. He is a skilled, quality player and a very good skater. We have spent a lot of time analysing video on him, and I promise you we’re getting a defenceman that is terribly strong in one on one situations. He is a young and hungry player and all feedback from our network on the other side of the Atlantic is positive, which is also important in relation to the changing room.”
Hache, who prides himself on his two-way game, had a strong showing in his maiden Danish season slotting 5 goals and assisting on 21 others with a +5 rating during the regular season. Though SønderjyskE weren’t as dominate in the regular season as they usually have been last year, they made the post-season falling in the quarter-finals. Hache had 2 assists in 8 appearances during this foray into playoff hockey.