Former Flame Steve Montador Passes Away

One of modern hockey’s most inspiring stories turned tragic today. 

Peel Regional police are reporting that former NHL defenseman Steve Montador has died in his home. He was 35-years-old. 

Montador became a permanent fixture in Calgary Flames lore during the 2003-04 Stanley cup run. The undrafted, journeyman defender was pressed into action due to a defense corps that was decimated by injuries. Like the team itself during that incredible run, Montador exceeded all expectations, which helped solidify him as an everyday NHL defender for the next decade. 

His most iconic moment came in overtime versus the San Jose Sharks in game 1 of the third round: 

“He’s the unlikeliest scoring hero…”

The beaver tail call for the puck. A celebration that is a mix of excitement and disbelief. It was evident you were watching a man playing out his boyhood dreams. 

It’s this image that likely sticks for most Flames fans who remember him. 

What Happened?

There aren’t a lot of details available about Montador’s passing this morning, but it’s known he was battling with depression; the side effects of a major concussion that ended his NHL career and his struggle to re-adjust to life outside of hockey. 

Both are significant concerns for former NHLers. As is evident by the latest class action lawsuit launched by NHL alumni, it’s not just fighters who face health and quality of life issues due to multiple blows to the head. 

Less well known is the difficulty a lot of pro athletes have adjusting to life outside of the spotlight. Those players who aren’t immediately offered front office or media jobs often find themselves lost and shiftless, without a primary source of income, purpose and identity suddenly gone without recourse. Former NHL goalie Corey Hirsch talked frankly about his post-career struggles recently:

“As players, people come to us,” Hirsch said. “We don’t have to go to them. But guess what? Once it ends, unless you’re Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky, nobody is looking for you anymore.”

This issue is especially insidious because millionaire athletes aren’t typically sympathetic figures. Erstwhile stars going broke after years of collecting seven figure pay checks are objects of scorn, derision or, at best, pity, rather than empathy. 

We don’t know whether Montador’s depression played a role in his tragic and premature death, but there’s no doubt he paid a heavy price for the time he spent in the league. 

RIP Steve. And thanks for the memories. 

  • KelownaFlames

    RIP Steve. I remember that goal against San Jose like it was yesterday, what a great moment. I always had a soft spot for him after the 2004 playoff run. Sad to hear about this.

  • cgyokgn

    Very sad… too young to die. Montador will always be remembered by Flames fans. I hope this puts a spotlight on concussion and depression issues of retired athletes.

  • 916oiler

    Just heartbreaking. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I hope he’s found peace and that his family can in time find the same.

    It’s hard not to question the role that depression may have played in Monty’s death. It serves as a reminder that conversations surrounding depression and mental health shouldn’t be relegated to one day a year. It’s a life threatening disease and deserves all the attention in the world.

    There are bigger things in life than some silly game. Hug your friends and family and reach out if you can. If you need a hand feel free to pm me @jimirude

  • 916oiler

    Devastating news. I definitely remember his contribution to the flames, especially during the run.

    Having just turned 35, it really hits close to home how early departure his is. It’s truely sad how some of these men, who play such a large roll in public entertainment, can become shells of themselves after the career takes it’s toll.

    Best wishes to his family and close friends. What a brutal blow to have to deal with.

  • RKD

    RIP to Steve Montador, my condolences to his family. This is very sad to read, he has left us way too young. He was great for us during the 2004 Cup run, a character guy.

  • cgyokgn

    I remember that play,that call and Monty’s celebration. Hard nosed player, good teammate, too young, too soon. It is true, more of a focus has to be put on mental health and all of the issues surrounding it.

    RIP , Gone but not forgotten.

  • amaninvan

    Very sad news. One of my fondest memories of the ’04 cup run was the two Doors (Montador and Commodore) basically coming out of nowhere and becoming a very reliable shutdown pairing. RIP Steve, thanks for the memories.

  • Skuehler

    you know, I can’t help but think of all the personal attacks on players that we make in the comments. No matter how much money these players make and how badly they mess up on occasion, these are elite skilled players that entertain us. They are normal people, not robots immune to the emotional rigours their profession pressures upon them. Comments like ‘so-and-so is garbage’ etc offers no insight into the game and is damaging.

    Such a tragic loss for all who knew Steve.

    • everton fc

      Spot-on. I remember when Primeau got traded to Calgary He said he wouldn’t be seeing his wife and kids for months. It was very human. Real. It made me respect Primeau, as you could tell he was gong to miss his family.

      These guys make tons of money. But they’re also human beings. For better, or worse.

      Montador was younger than Iggy. Sad. He and his family are in my prayers.

    • Captain Ron

      Your absolutely right. It has always irked me to hear someone referred to as garbage yet it seems to have become acceptable.

      Far as I’m concerned it falls into the same category as the use of the word “retard”. Where some people find it offensive to describe someone using that word but “garbage” is OK. Go figure.

      Not trying to be overly serious here but it sure seems a bit hypocritical. Each to their own I guess.

  • Joe Flames

    Great video, happier times.

    I remember watching him play for Buffalo against Boston the last time they met in the playoffs; he was the best player on the ice but never got the credit for it. Great heart. I always liked him as a player.

  • Captain Ron

    RIP Steve and thanks for the memories. How very sad that this has happened to you at such a young age. Our condolences to your family and friends.

    Depression is a very real threat. For some it is a never ending cycle of pain that can become intolerable.

  • Skuehler

    if anyone is interested, today I posted an article on my blog about depression. Something I have been working on for a while, but was hesitant to hit the ‘publish’ button. Steve’s passing gave me the motivation to finish it and put it out there.

  • Recently I heard Rob Kerr on Sportsnet960 ask NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about player safety on the radio. The reply was the usual boilerplate about how the league takes it very seriously and was the first in modern pro sports to research affects on concussions. But news like Montador’s bring home the point not enough is done, still.