Remembering the player and man wearing the jersey
Steve Montador, former NHL and KHL defenceman, was found dead in his home in Mississauga, Ont. on Feb. 15. According to the Peel Regional Police, there was no indication of foul play and the cause of death is still unknown.
“With deep sadness we mourn the unfortunate loss of former Blackhawk, Steve Montador,” the Chicago Blackhawks said through a released statement. “We join the many others throughout the NHL in keeping Steve’s family and friends in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
The Vancouver native was troubled by numerous concussions throughout his playing career, including a season-ending head injury he suffered in March 2012, during his first and only season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Following this injury, Montador spoke openly about the struggles he faced with post-concussion symptoms, especially the concerning effects of depression and anxiety. Montador told CSNChicago.com that he received a lot of help to work through his issues and believed he had taken the necessary steps in his recovery. In March 2013, Montador reported feeling better and said “every day is a brand new day and there’s a lot of enjoyment … I’m just filled with a lot of gratitude.”
Overcoming depression and anxiety was difficult, but Montador announced that it would not stop him from playing hockey again so upon clearance to return, the Blackhawks placed him on waivers and sent him down to the AHL to join the Rockford IceHogs in order to regain match fitness. However, the Blackhawks bought him out and with little NHL interest in the defenceman, Montador decided to join the KHL in Croatia.
During 10 NHL seasons playing for six teams, Montador recorded 33 goals and 98 assists for 131 points and registered 807 penalty minutes. Although he was noted for his gritty defensive style, Montador will be remembered for being a great man on and off the ice.
“This is a terrible loss of a wonderful young man; a great teammate known for his big heart and character,” said the Calgary Flames in a statement. “He will be missed by all who had the pleasure to have known and worked with him.”
Chris Kuc, hockey writer for the Chicago Tribune, tweeted after Montador’s death, “Not sure of circumstances behind Steve Montador’s death, but in his last e-mail to me a year ago he said, ‘I’m grateful for this peace I have.’”
Former teammates who became close friends tweeted after hearing of the tragedy. “To my friend Steve Montador may u find peace in a better place,” former Blackhawks teammate, Nick Boynton wrote. “I’ll miss you.”
Montador’s heart-breaking death brings forth a more serious question about head injuries in high contact sports like hockey and football.
Hayley Wickenheiser, professional hockey player and Olympic gold-medalist, wrote a powerful post on Facebook about athletes who struggle with post-concussion symptoms in memorial of Montador.
“Steve Montador is no longer with us and many will say it is because of concussions,” Wickenheiser said. “In my opinion that is just one part of the story. There are so many factors in his life that led up to this moment, whether it be addiction, depression, concussion, loss of identity. None of us truly really knows why—only Steve does.”
Wickenheiser not only writes about Montador’s death, but what athletes, team organisations and leagues must do in the future in order to help those who suffer from the dangerous symptoms.
“This is what the public does not understand and this is what the NHL and the NHLPA need to get a handle on and continue to do more for the great warriors that give so much to the game and the fans,” she said. “It will be a failure to lose another athlete under similar circumstances as Steve. Lets hope that his death brings forward a shining light on the difficulty athletes face when they leave the game.”
Wickenheiser states that athletes should be treated with respect especially when they are not playing at their best because it could be due to personal issues. “The public is so quick to jump on these guys and crucify them if they are not perfect in the media. Lets remember they are people too, they hurt, they struggle, and they are not invincible.”