He was a family member. He was someone that cared. He had a lot of good energy. He was sharp. He was a very intelligent guy. - Martin Gelinas
CALGARY, AB -- Steve Montador was more than a teammate. He was family.
“I've got only good memories about Steve, as a hockey player for what he did for this city, but more importantly, Steve was a good friend off the ice,” said assistant coach Martin Gelinas, who played with Montador from 2001-04 with the Calgary Flames and again from 2005-07 as a member of the Florida Panthers.
“He was someone that lived with my family for more than six months when I was in Florida. He was a family member. He was someone that cared. He had a lot of good energy. He was sharp. He was a very intelligent guy. Obviously he had some demons he had to deal with, but what I'll remember about Steve was he was a caring guy for his teammates, for his family members and for friends. It's very sad, a very sad day.”
Montador died Sunday. He was 35 years old.
Gelinas isn’t the only current member of the Flames he touched. Far from it.
Dennis Wideman, who briefly played with Montador as members of the Boston Bruins during the 2008-09 season, called him “a great man and a great teammate.”
“He was a really laid back guy, had a lot of fun. Just a guy that would go through the wall for anybody and any one of his teammates,” Wideman said. “He was always the fittest guy on the team and worked extremely hard. He was a guy that would stand up for his teammates against anybody no matter how big they were. He was just a great guy to have around.
“He was obviously well liked everywhere he played. He was probably the most popular guy on the team and one of the best guys I’ve played with, for sure.”
Montador originally went undrafted after playing five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and signed with the Flames in April 2000. He won the Calder Cup with the Saint John Flames in his rookie season in the American Hockey League.
But his time with the Flames organization is most fondly remembered with his overtime winner against the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 in the Western Conference Final of the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was his first ever Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
“I remember Steve as playing such an important part of our 2004 Stanley Cup Finals team,” assistant general manager Craig Conroy said in a statement. “He had the ability to bring everyone together and was so enjoyable to be around; he would light up a room with his presence.
“I’m so sad today to hear the news that we have lost an important member of both the Flames and hockey family. We will all miss you dearly Monty.”
Montador was traded from the Flames to Florida on Dec. 2, 2005 and spent three seasons with the Panthers. He then signed with the Anaheim Ducks before being traded to Boston on March 4, 2009. He spent two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres from 2009-11 before joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011-12.
In all, Montador had 33 goals, 131 points and 807 penalty minutes in 571 NHL games.
It was with Chicago, his last NHL team, that Montador and current Flames forward Brandon Bollig shared a dressing room.
“I think there’s a fair amount of guys here that know him and know how great of a guy he was…even better teammate,” Bollig said. “It’s unfortunate. What I can say about the guy is he was one of my favourite people to just sit around and talk to.
“He earned everything he got. That’s what made him successful and that’s why he stuck around as long as he did. I couldn’t have enjoyed playing with the guy any more. I know everyone out there in Chicago where I was with him, I know everyone loved him and loved having him around. Things like this, there’s no explanation for it.”