Back at the 2014 QMJHL Draft, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan ascended to the podium with the sixth overall pick. They were a young team heading for a rebuild; they had building blocks in place, with 16 year-old players Guillaume Brisebois and Christophe Boivin playing significant roles the season before. What the team needed was an impact forward with a scoring pedigree.
Titan general manager Sylvain Couturier found his guy, selecting Jordan Maher with the sixth overall pick.
What ensued was a 320-game, five-year major junior career that included climbing to the highest peak of the junior hockey mountain. It all started though, by walking across the stage that day in Sherbrooke.
“At the draft I was so excited. I can remember walking on to the stage, signing the helmet, the interview, all that stuff. It was pretty nerve-wracking for the first time, I’d never done anything like that.” said Maher on his draft experience.
Maher joined his new teammates in Bathurst for the 2014-2015 season as a 16 year-old. The Titan continued to ice a young team, with seven players selected in the 2014 draft seeing regular shifts. Off the ice, Maher was adjusting to life moving from Gander, Newfoundland to Northern New Brunswick.
“It was a big change for me. I was still young and it was my first time leaving home,” said Maher. “I had played all my minor hockey growing up in Newfoundland so this was a bit different.”
“I got used to it pretty quickly though. I knew how to speak French from taking French Immersion in school.”
Over the years, Maher grew with the core that the Titan were building around him; he and three other members of that 2014-2015 team (Jeffrey Truchon-Viel, Samuel L’Italien, and Elijah Francis) played alongside one another for four straight seasons.
“It was good for us,” said Maher. “We got a lot of ice time and experience in those first couple of years. It really helped me and the other guys develop as well.”
The Titan continued to add crucial building blocks over those years, drafting future cornerstone players Antoine Morand and Noah Dobson in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Those moves, along with some shrewd trades by Couturier at the 2017-2018 Christmas trading period, led Bathurst to the pinnacle of junior hockey: The Memorial Cup.
To this day, Maher still finds himself speechless when asked to describe the sensation of winning the biggest trophy in junior hockey.
“I don’t know if there are words to describe it,” said Maher. “We had a good team from the start. At Christmas we made some huge trades, and that put us over the top to compete.”
“There was something special there. First and foremost, it was a good group of guys in the locker room. Secondly, we had so much depth on our team, from first line to fourth line. We didn’t care who was on the ice, because we knew everyone was going to do their job. That’s how our mindset was and having that confidence, I think, helped us push to the top.”
With the highs of victory in junior hockey comes the cost of getting there. For Bathurst, part of that price was Maher. He was one of a number of players on the move following the Memorial Cup victory as the Titan began recouping future assets to replenish the cupboards. Maher and Antoine Morand were traded to the Halifax at the 2018 QMJHL Draft for a package of four draft picks.
“Halifax was a good situation. When I got there I was excited; they were hosting the Memorial Cup so there was some pressure around the team.” said Maher on his newest adventure.
With Halifax guaranteed a berth in the Memorial Cup as hosts, the team had bolstered an already-stacked offense, adding two proven winners to their ranks. While Morand, the Titan’s top scorer in 2017-2018 was inserted in to a similar role as he was the season previously, Maher was asked to play a different role. Coming off of a season where he recorded career highs in assists (42) and points (61), Maher was tasked with a shutdown role, focusing more on his defensive play than offense. His offensive numbers reflected it, recording just six goals and 19 points in 33 games.
That adventure in Halifax was short-lived. Almost as quickly as he arrived, Maher was traded once again, this time to Charlottetown as part of a package for Keith Getson.
“We were excited to add Jordan in to the mix because of his experience.” said Islanders head coach Jim Hulton. “He was a five-year player in the league who has a winning pedigree. He played both an offensive role and defensive role on a Memorial Cup-winning Bathurst team.”
“We knew from our research that he was a consistent, level-headed guy that would be a good example for our young players.”
A player known for his offense was once again given a chance to showcase those skills. He did so almost immediately, recording an assist against his former teammates in Halifax in his first game as an Islander, and then shredded his first team, Bathurst, with a 3-point performance the following night.
“In Halifax they were looking for me to play more of a defensive role. I didn’t mind that, but when I came here my role changed to more of a two-way role, and I like to produce offensively.” explained Maher. “Since coming to Charlottetown, I’ve made the most of my opportunities, and I’ve enjoyed who I’m playing with. We have a great group of guys that have helped me out a lot since my arrival.”
“Halifax is a great place, but I think Charlottetown has been a better fit for me.”
“Jordan came in and got an offensive opportunity that he didn’t necessarily have in Halifax, and that gave him a boost of confidence when he first got here.” Added Hulton. “He got out of the gate early, which helped that confidence, and also gave our fanbase a belief in his abilities.”
Arriving in a new town can be tough; it can be made even tougher when the incumbent player is taking the place of a heart-and-soul leader who has spent his entire career in that town. That’s exactly what Maher had to deal with when traded to Charlottetown.
“It’s not easy when you have to replace a Keith Getson, but the most impressive part is that Jordan hasn’t tried to be anybody else but himself.” said Hulton on the comparisons. “He’s come in, played his game, and done a wonderful job of leading by example.”
“When we made the moves at Christmas we knew we were losing a lot of natural leadership in Getson and Joseph. We were also getting younger, giving up two 19’s and a 20. Jordan has come in and done a great job,” continued the Isles head coach. “The biggest thing for me is that he leads by example. He prepares the right way. He shows up and plays the game the right way. When you have your older players doing that and leading by example, it’s easier for the younger players to not only see that, but to fall in line and do it.”
Maher has been a young player on a rebuilding team, a veteran on a contending team, and is now a veteran on a young team. He’s seen all there is to see in junior hockey, and as he says, it’s surreal.
“I never would have thought this would happen,” Maher said, looking for the words to sum up his major junior career. “It’s been a long road, 300 plus games. It’s been pretty interesting. I’ve had some ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“It’s been a hell of a ride. It’s prepared me for the future. Having the good times and the bad helps you mentally in life. I’ve gone through good things and bad, but I wouldn’t change it. It’s made me a better player and person.”
Maher would be remiss if he didn’t mention those who made a kid from Gander’s dream possible.
“I wanna thank all of my coaches, even before the Q. All the players I’ve played with, the billet parents, it’s unreal what they do for us. My billets were likely the biggest influences on me in Bathurst. I had the same billets for all four years; we were a family. They’ve definitely had a huge impact on me.”
“Finally, I wouldn’t be here without my parents and the sacrifices they made for me.”