Life is a gift.
Life is unpredictable. There is no script. You write it as you go.
In an instant, what matters most can be taken away.
Nothing is ever promised, especially in life and the game of hockey.
Connor Trenholm learned that crushing life lesson at a very young age and had to come to grips with it.
That lesson shaped his journey in life and the game, but it will never define it.
A Brother’s Impact
The game of hockey has a unique way of connecting us all, especially between brothers.
The bond between Nathan Welton and Connor Trenholm transcends the game.
“Connor and I have a great relationship, but as brothers who are 17 years apart, I wasn’t around as much as I would’ve liked when he was growing up,” confessed Welton who had a stellar hockey career.
“I left to play in the QMJHL in Quebec City, less than two weeks after Connor and Cassidy were born.”
“The time I did spend at home consisted of a lot of hours logged playing mini-sticks in the basement and kitchen, the latter of which wasn’t mom’s favourite,” joked Welton who went on to play four seasons at Acadia University after his time in the QMJHL.
“Ever since I was little I always had a dream of playing in the QMJHL,” confessed Trenholm
“Watching Nathan was one of the main reasons why.”
“Nathan had a tremendous impact on my hockey career,” said Trenholm.
“As a kid, I would watch him play in the Q and University hockey, and that has always motivated me to play high levels of hockey as well.”
“I remember he would always play mini sticks with me, and shoot pucks outside, which was fun, but he was also teaching me new skills at the same time.”
“Connor always enjoyed watching my games, which I’d say helped inspire him to create his own hockey goals, but simply watching that much hockey, being in love with the game and studying it the way Connor still does is what has allowed him to excel throughout all different types of adversity,” explained Welton.
Trenholm was well on his way to forging his own unique path in the game when the unthinkable happened.
Out of Control
Just before the start of his second year of Atom AAA hockey, Connor Trenholm and his family had to make the difficult decision for him to stop playing hockey.
“In September 2013 we decided that I would step away from hockey as a precaution,” Trenholm said.
“We were doing a screening for a heart condition that can be hereditary and at the time it showed a borderline indication.”
Trenholm was only ten years old and excelling at the game he loved, obviously the news and subsequent decision to step away from the game was devastating.
“It was very disappointing,” admitted Trenholm.
“Hockey was what I loved to do, and it was my passion ever since I was a little kid.”
“I wasn’t really sure what to do other than hockey. I would still go to the rink throughout those three years so that made it especially tough.”
“I would see my friends playing together, and on the team that I would have played on. I always had hope that someday I would be able to play again, but I never had any expectations at all.”
“Honestly, I didn’t ever want to accept that he wouldn’t play hockey again,” said Welton.
“I saw a passion and work ethic in him that I’ve only ever seen in a couple other players throughout my time in hockey.”
“Truth be told, Connor is the one who helped the rest of our family be able to so easily accept that hockey wasn’t going to be a part of his life the way it had been, and through his maturity at ten years-old, and his acceptance of how things had to be, it made supporting him in all his other endeavours that much more exciting for our entire family,” explained Welton.
Three years had gone by with Connor and his family in limbo.
The concern and uncertainty for his condition was crippling, but the family tried to make the best of it.
Trenholm’s love for the game never wavered.
The young mature beyond his years kid from Cole Harbour accepted his situation for what it was.
One can only imagine the nightmare of being forced to step away from a game he loved.
For Trenholm hockey and sports were a way of life even at the tender age of ten.
“I would have never been able to face these hard times if it wasn’t for my entire family.”
“They are my backbone and they helped me get through that adversity, and they continue to do the same every single day, especially my parents, brother and sister.”
“They were with me every step of the way and they were always there to cheer me up and make me feel good every single day. I couldn’t ask for a better family and parents, they always put me and my siblings first,” said a reflective Trenholm.
“I can’t thank them enough for that, especially those three years.”
Three long years had passed without the game in his life.
The will to compete and the love of the game was always there.
That’s what made the next series of events so special and truly a gift.
“After growing through puberty and further testing, the suspected heart condition was ruled out in July 2016,” explained Trenholm.
“I was told that I could return to hockey, my doctor actually said, ‘Connor, if I were you, I would be playing hockey.’
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
“I always had hope that someday I would be told that I could return to play, but I was shocked at first.”
“After it actually sunk in, I was ecstatic. It meant everything to me, and I felt like I was whole again. I couldn’t wait to get back on the ice that summer.”
“The day I found out that Connor had grown to a point where his suspected heart condition was no longer a concern and we as a family knew that he would never have to worry about it again, was a day I’ll never forget,” said Welton who won a President Cup with the Moncton Wildcats in 2006.
“Hockey aside, Connor’s health was always the #1 priority for us and to know that he was okay and could just be a kid again was the most amazing news.”
“The fact that he could now decide if hockey was something he wanted to do again, after three years away from the game, was a blessing in itself.”
“He obviously chose to jump back in, head first, and what he has been able to accomplish over the last three years is unbelievable,” Welton added.
Being off skates for three vital developmental years wasn’t even a challenge for Trenholm.
He was driven to return.
Driven to have an impact.
Driven to take advantage of the gift he was given.
With all the adversity and health concerns in his rear-view mirror Trenholm burst onto the hockey scene.
He hasn’t looked back since.
“I am very grateful just to be playing hockey at all.”
“When I first came back I didn’t really have any expectations or anything, I just wanted to get back on the ice and play, but as I started to get more comfortable, I realized that I still had a chance of getting drafted.”
Trenholm’s hockey dream may have been put on hold, but it was now in reach.
The Cape Breton Eagles selected Trenholm in the 3rd round 48th overall in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft.
“When draft day finally came, and I was selected, I was through the roof.”
“This was a dream of mine for so many years and knowing that it came true, I couldn’t have been happier that day.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of the person he’s become and his resolve to not only be drafted to the Q, but to have made it as a 16-year-old, is nothing short of exceptional,” Welton said.
So just how difficult is it to make the jump to the QMJHL?
“The Q is a huge step up from major midget. The guys are older, faster and stronger.”
“The main things I am working on are to get quicker and transition faster because that split second jump makes a big difference when it comes to the speed of the game. I am also continuing to work on my puck skills.”
“Every single player in this league is skilled, and to gain that extra edge you need to be able to win those 1-1 battles low and come out with the puck.”
“Playing in the Q is great, you get to meet new people, you have some of the best coaches you can ask for, you have ice available to you every single day, and you have the support in school and on the ice,” explained the highly skilled two-way winger.
The Cape Breton Eagles organization rebranded at the start of the 2019- 2020 season and have an outstanding blend of young talent and veteran presence. There’s no doubt the Eagles have a very bright future.
“Cape Breton is an amazing place to play and I have an awesome billet family. The people in the community are awesome, and the entire management team are so supportive and helpful, so it takes a lot of stress off the players because they put the players first before anyone else,” said Trenholm proudly.
Nathan Welton and Connor Trenholm share a bond that will never be broken.
Both brothers share an enormous amount of admiration for life, the game and each other.
“Connor was truly stoic in his maturity and ability to move forward during the adversity he faced.”
“He found new activities like golf, baseball and skiing to challenge himself over his three years away from the game of hockey, and truly excelled at everything he did, which was no surprise to anyone in our family,” Welton said.
“Our entire family showed up to support and cheer him on away from the rink during that time, which created some of our fondest memories together that didn’t revolve around our love for the game of hockey.”
Welton, who recently moved back to the Maritimes after living out west for a few years, has a young family and is thrilled to be able to watch his brother live out his own hockey dreams.
You see the bond between these two brothers transcends the game.
Welton was sure to pass on more than just skill development to his younger brother. He wanted him to understand and embrace all facets of the game.
“My hockey journey was an amazing part of my life and gave me more than I could ever give back,” he said.
“Because Connor always looked up to me, as his older brother and with his love for the game, I was able to give him advice that was immediately soaked up.”
“He watched the games adamantly, always studying and asking questions about rules, plays, equipment, dressing rooms, and the list goes on.”
“I did make sure to let him know that if he wanted to achieve his hockey goals, he would have to do a lot of the things that I was definitely not the best at. Things like being the best team player you can be, treating others the way you want to be treated, always being the hardest working, on and off the ice, and staying positive, no matter the circumstances,” confessed Welton.
“I think he naturally had all of these qualities, but hopefully the experiences I shared were of help in Connor getting him to where he is today.”
“Nathan helped me through those tough three years by always supporting me in everything I did, so he has had a big impact on my hockey career and my life,” Trenholm said.
“He has not only helped me with my on ice skills, but off-ice as well.”
Through it all Connor Trenholm has never feared the distance between his dreams and reality. In many ways that dream has been shared by his entire family, especially his brother.
“I learned many things about myself and life in general,” confessed Trenholm.
“Throughout those three years I had to be patient, I learned that patience is key to almost everything you do in life.”
“I also learned that you can’t take anything for granted.”
“This is true for everything, and I am glad that I learned this at a young age because everything you have, and love, is a privilege, and you have to be thankful for it because you never know when you’re going to lose it.”
“I learned that hockey isn’t a given part of anyone’s life, you have to be thankful for everything that you are given and everything you have,” admitted Trenholm.
“I’ve also learned that you can’t do everything by yourself, you need to have a good support system, and I am very thankful that I have a great family, and a bunch of great friends who help me be my best every single day.”
Spoken like a player and person that fully understands the true essence of a gift.