One Last Ride

It’s the last ride for Connor Trenholm in the QMJHL. Like many other overagers across the QMJHL, Trenholm is trying to take his final season in Major Junior hockey all in stride.

The highly skilled two-way forward is looking to lead the way in more ways than one for the upstart Moncton Wildcats who have positioned themselves for a potential two year run at a President Cup and beyond. What a ride it’s been for the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia product. Trenholm’s story is very well documented both on and off the ice.

Trenholm has never given up on his dreams and it’s clear where he gained his resiliency, character and perspective from, his family. If anyone understands the importance of taking life and hockey one-step at a time, it’s Connor Trenholm. 

The hard-nosed competitor and quiet leader has faced a tremendous amount of adversity throughout his path in the game. He wouldn’t trade any of that for the world.

Trenholm has experienced it all so far in the QMJHL.

From a championship contender to the COVID shutdown that same season with the Cape Breton Eagles, to a Memorial Cup Champion with the Saint John Sea Dogs, to a rebuilding young team, to another championship caliber contender, the ups and downs have no doubt been incredibly steep. Who could have imagined what 2023 would have in store for Trenholm, but things rapidly changed once again for the veteran forward when he found out he was traded.

“It was very special,” Trenholm said when he found he was traded to the Moncton Wildcats on January 1, 2023.

“The family connection we already had with the Wildcats is pretty cool,” admitted Trenholm.

It was definitely a full circle moment for the family.

Nathan Welton, Connor’s brother played for the Cats and ironically finished his Major Junior career with the Cats in 2006-2007.

“Nathan and the Cats won the President Cup in 2006, so growing up, I was always a Moncton Wildcats fan, I may have lived in Cole Harbour, but it was always Go Cats Go, when they were in town to the play the Mooseheads.”

“When I knew there was a possibility to be part of that organization, I was super excited, when it happened and everything fell into place, it was like a dream come true,” Trenholm said.

How difficult is it to be traded in the QMJHL? Those on the outside looking in don’t fully grasp the toll it takes on young players, their families and one should never forget the backbone of junior hockey, their billet families?

“There’s definitely a lot that goes into trades. The connections, all of the people you meet, the different communities that you play in. From Cape Breton to Saint John, I had great billet families there, I loved the cities, and built a lot of good relationships, that all changes one day, it’s really different and tough for kids ranging in age from sixteen to twenty,” stressed Trenholm.

“People don’t realize sometimes that we are still kids, to pick up everything and say bye to your billet families and move to a new city and team and everything it’s definitely a tough transition for anyone really.”

“It’s a change of scenery, but everything changes instantly, it’s hard, but I think everyone that has gone through it can definitely say that they settle in eventually, but it’s hard at first,” confessed Trenholm.

Trenholm’s addition to the Wildcats was just what the doctor ordered for what he brought to the table this season and will again this season. His ability to play both forward positions and play in every situation gave Wildcats Head Coach Daniel Lacroix tons of options. The impact of player and person like Connor Trenholm can have on an organization is truly immeasurable. Obviously, trades are part of the business, how players respond on and off the ice depends a lot on their adopted family.

Trenholm is quick to credit all of his billet families for their unwavering support and the success he’s had so far in his career.

Photo Credit Daniel St Louis

“Billets are huge, they’re a huge part of junior hockey and sometimes they get overlooked, fans come to the rink and see us play, but they don’t really understand what goes on behind the scenes, our billets are like our second family.”

“We spend every day with them, we get to know their kids, we develop really good relationships and if they do have kids, those kids look up to us and see us as role models.”

“It’s a great experience for junior hockey players to be billeted, they play a massive role for not only when you live there but moving forward. I’m still in contact with my billet families in Cape Breton and Saint John and my one in Moncton during the offseason, they really become a second family, I’m super fortunate to have had great billets everywhere I’ve been,” Trenholm said.

Coming into a new team and organization even when there’s some familiarity is incredible difficult and often takes a long time for anyone to adjust.

“Playing against Moncton, I definitely knew they were a younger team, but they worked really hard, they had some good young players and a lot of depth throughout their four lines,” explained Trenholm.

“When I got traded, I knew they had potential and I saw what they could do and the guys that they had on the team, I knew that they had a really good group of guys on and off the ice.”

“Coming in, I knew I needed to be that leader, that could play a 200ft game, be a power forward and play that Wildcats identity. I think we really found our stride; we got some good wins.”

“Obviously, we went through some tough patches, but we came out it.  That’s the type of team we are, we were confronted with some adversity, but it only made us stronger and better.”

“We had a lot of depth and a lot of great players and four lines that could always go, it was a really good team to be a part of.”

In 30 regular season games with the Cats, Trenholm scored 7 times while adding 13 assists. In 12 playoff games, he chipped in with three assists in predominantly a shutdown checking/energy role. Trenholm never figured in on the scoresheet for countless goals in the second half of season while screening opposition netminders on the Cats powerplay. Lacroix moved the ultra-reliable skilled two-way forward to the net front with about a month to go in the regular season. Trenholm also saw tons of time on the Cats PK unit.

Value is value, the measure of that value goes beyond the stat sheet or assets that have been traded for.  The Cats shipped two second round draft choices to Saint John for Trenholm, a trade that has already paid dividends. Trenholm is entering his final season in the Q hopeful to make one last shot at a President Cup.

“I think we are a very close team,” Trenholm said when asked about the team’s chance on contending.

“Everyone gets along really well, we spend a lot of time together off the ice, so we can develop those relationships and connections.”

“It’s a really good group of guys and we all work really hard, we want to let everyone know that the Wildcats don’t play a nonchalant game, that when we come in, it’s going to be a battle every single night whether we’re on the road or at home, it’s going to be a tough game.”

“I think with everyone being a year older and having gained that second-round playoff experience under our belts is going to be really good for the group.”

It might be his last ride in the QMJHL, but the opportunity to play as an overager in the league isn’t lost on the veteran forward.

“It definitely means a lot.”

“Let me tell you, it’s gone by crazy fast. It seems like it’s been 30 minutes, but its been four years, I’m excited for the opportunity, it’s going to be a big year for me and I want to help contribute as much as I can being that leader and guy that can be counted on both on and off the ice.”

“Being an overage is a big responsibility, I want to be leader and help wherever I can, but I also want to put myself in a good position for after next year to give myself an opportunity to move on and finds something that works.”

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