2024 NHL Draft

Chicago's Michael Hage Dedicating 2024 NHL Draft Season To Late Father

Chicago's Michael Hage Dedicating 2024 NHL Draft Season To Late Father

2024 NHL Draft prospect Michael Hage is playing this season with a heavy heart after the unexpected passing of his father over the summer.

Jan 25, 2024 by Ryan Sikes

Michael Hage entered the season as one of the top 2024 NHL Draft-eligible prospects in the USHL. A highly-touted forward out of Ontario when he and fellow Canadian Macklin Celebrini signed tender agreements to play for the Chicago Steel two years ago, everything was in front of him.

These last two years, however, have been anything but easy.

Hage was injured during his first training camp with the Steel and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, leaving him sidelined until last March.

Sadly, that was nothing compared to the tragedy that befell the Hage family this summer when Michael’s father, Alain, passed away unexpectedly due to a freak swimming accident.  

Any player’s draft season is meant to be special, but Hage was left playing with a heavy heart with one of his biggest supporters unexpectedly unable to enjoy it with him.

Hockey served as a good diversion for Hage as he mourned his father's passing. He used the sport as an outlet to escape from the world and clear his mind.  

“This is what I love to do,” Hage said of playing hockey. “It was honestly a really good distraction. Just be able to go out on the ice and enjoy it and something to look forward to every day.”

Given the distress, Hage could have easily shut it down. No one would have faulted him for that. But the young forward knew he had to press on to honor his late father, who always believed in his son’s potential and knew he could achieve anything if he put his mind to it.

Hage's dedication to his father's memory has driven him to excel in his first full USHL season, with 34 points in 30 games. Since December 1, Hage has eight goals and 16 points in 12 games, as he reestablished himself as one of the premier prospects in the USHL.

His strong play caught the attention of NHL Central Scouting as he was ranked 19th among North American skaters in the most recent midterm rankings for the NHL Draft, suggesting a first-round projection.

Hage's recent surge in performance has also helped the Steel find their footing after a slow start. Chicago is 4-0-2 since the calendar flipped to 2024.

Even though his on-ice success and significant improvements in his defensive game have been bright spots, the loss of his father still weighs heavily on him.

Not being able to speak with Alain before and after games is when Hage feels his absence the most. 

It was during these moments that he would receive an honest opinion from his father about his recent play and what he could do better. He would take both the positive and negative feedback to improve his skills and develop better as a player.

“He was just someone that would always tell me the truth,” said Hage. “It's definitely hard not being able to have that and not be able to talk to him after games.

“You feel a kind of a void in your life, but I definitely always think about him.”

The outlook for the young forward remains very promising. Regardless of which NHL club picks him, they will undoubtedly acquire a remarkable hockey player whose passion for the sport has only grown through the adversity he's faced.

Being sidelined for an extended period of time last season reminded Hage of how much he loves hockey and to appreciate every moment he puts on his skates.

“It just kind of taught me to never take anything for granted,” Hage said. “Never take an opportunity or people or just the game you love for granted. 

“Every day is another opportunity to get better and enjoy what you're doing. I think that was the biggest thing I learned with not being able to play for a long time and coming back later in the year was just to really enjoy every moment and soak it in.”

Next season, Hage is set to attend the University of Michigan as he enters the next phase of his promising young career.

Though he has a bright future ahead of him, each step he takes toward achieving his dream of becoming a professional hockey player will undoubtedly be particularly emotional in his father’s absence.

“He meant the world to me and taught me everything I know,” said Hage. “I just try to go out every night and not let him down.”

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