Steve Montador, whose 10-season NHL career was shortened by concussions, was found dead at his home. He was 35. No cause of death was immediately available.
He was discovered unresponsive at his home in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, where he was pronounced dead by police, who began a sudden-death investigation. Foul play was not suspected.
His death brought an outpouring of grief from former teammates and rivals, as well as from the NHL Players Association, for which he had been an active member and part of the bargaining committee in 2012. Montador’s head injuries, as well as his subsequent struggle with depression, were much chronicled.
In May, an analysis of his brain revealed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
His death will likely put greater pressure on the NHL as it seeks to cope with the brain injuries that plague the sport.
Montador was a plaintiff in a case by former players against the NHL, the late player’s lawyer Bill Gibbs told Rick Westhead of TSN. The family can pursue the case on behalf of the player’s estate.
“He was a guy who really cared about his brothers, the guys he played with,” Gibbs told TSN. “I think he felt strongly it was important for everybody to start advancing the conversation about what happens to guys after their hockey careers and what happens to their brains.”
The 6-foot, 205-pound defenceman played junior in the Ontario Hockey League with the North Bay Centennials, Erie (Penn.) Otters and Peterborough Petes. The Calgary Flames signed the undrafted rearguard as a free agent in 2000, assigning him to their American Hockey League affiliate in Saint John, N.B., where he won a Calder Cup in 2001.
He skated in 87 games for the parent Flames over three seasons. In 2004-05, he played in France for the Mulhouse Scorpions, before returning to the Flames the following season. Calgary traded him to the Florida Panthers on Dec. 2, 2005. He put in three solid seasons in Florida before joining the Anaheim Ducks for the 2008-09 season. After 65 games, the Ducks traded him to the Boston Bruins for Petteri Nokelainen. Montador lasted just 13 games in Boston. He next spent two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres before joining the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2011-12 season.
He suffered a concussion on Feb. 7, 2012, in a game against Colorado, returned seven weeks later only to be re-concussed. The head injury was re-aggravated in practice.
“If I get into a game I expect to get hit and I expect to hit people,” Montador told sports reporter Tracey Myers. “If I went into a game fearful, the first thing that’s going to happen is I’m going to get hit and I’m going to get smoked. That’s part of the recovery.”
Montador scored 33 goals with 98 assists in 571 regular-season NHL games. He recorded 807 penalty minutes in his 10 seasons with six clubs. He scored three goals with five assists in 43 NHL playoff games.
Montador’s professional career ended with a 14-game rehabilitation assignment with the Rockford (Ill.) IceHogs of the AHL in 2012-13.
Once again a free agent, but with little NHL interest in him as a player, Montador, nicknamed The Matador, signed with Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL last season. He lasted 11 games.
Sports fans in Vancouver will remember broadcaster Don Taylor celebrating the defenceman’s appearance in a highlight package by singing a parody of the opening line of a Procol Harum’s “Conquistador”: “Steve Mon-ta-dor your stallion stands…”