Steve Montador, a defenseman who played 571 games in 10 NHL seasons, died Sunday. He was 35 years old.
Montador, who was undrafted after playing five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, signed with the Calgary Flames in April 2000. He won the Calder Cup with the Saint John Flames in his rookie season in the American Hockey League.
"The NHL family was saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Montador," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Steve's career was defined by a passion for the game and a determination that made him a great teammate as well as a respected opponent. We extend our deepest sympathies to Steve's family and friends."
Martin Gelinas, now an associate coach with Calgary, was a teammate of Montador with the Flames and the Florida Panthers.
"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," Gelinas said. "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."
Montador had 33 goals, 131 points and 807 penalty minutes in 571 NHL games. He played for the Flames, the Panthers, the Anaheim Ducks, the Boston Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres and the Chicago Blackhawks during his career.
"This is a very sad day for all of us," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. "Steve was one of those character players that brought great spirit and determination to his team. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time."
Montador's last NHL team was the Blackhawks, with whom he played in the 2011-12 season.
"With deep sadness we mourn the unfortunate loss of former Blackhawk Steve Montador," the Blackhawks said in a 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."
"He’s one of those guys that definitely earned it," said Flames forward Brandon Bollig, who played with Montador in Chicago. "I don't think anything was given to him. 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."