“He was the type of person if he couldn’t do something he’d take that as a challenge and he would go accomplish it,” explained Chris Montador.
“He was always fighting against people doubting him. Teachers, coaches, friends, he loved to prove people wrong,” Steve Montador’s brother Chris continued to open up and describe the resiliency that marked the defenceman’s career.
Before joining the maroon and white for his overage year, Steve spent two seasons with the North Bay Centennials and another pair with the Erie Otters. Although only a single season was spent in the Patch, Montador’s move to the Memorial Centre appeared to be a match made in paradise. In years prior his parents lay roots in Lakefield after moving from Mississauga, he spent summers training with fellow Borough boys and clinched an incredible billet family: the Babcocks.
“It’s amazing I’m not evening getting it justified, he had a tight knit group that were like brothers,” described Chris.
The increased comfort and support that flows from having your family in close proximity was reflected in Steve’s on ice play that season, as he tallied 56 points in 64 games. That year he would go on to win the Usher’s Trophy, as the Petes’ best defenceman of the 1999-2000 season.
Although his on ice presence proved valuable to various teams and his size reflected that of a professional hockey player, Montador was not on the radar of NHL scouts. Nonetheless it didn’t deter the off-ice gentle giant from pursuing his dreams. His seed of commitment to go all the way was planted well before his draft year.
“When he fully decided to play with North Bay [instead of an American college] he called me up and said, ‘Holy Smokes I guess I have to take this pretty serious now.’ You could just hear it in his voice, you could hear the change, ‘this is the route I am going to try and take to the NHL.’ He got serious at that point.”
Chris continued to describe the conversation as nothing less than an epiphany. “It was a real turning point, you know he was a teenager, he was a young guy. He was about to move up to North Bay with a family he didn’t know.”
Steve would go on to sign with Calgary as a free agent in 2000 and initiated his career in the AHL. He would make his NHL debut with the Flames on November 23, 2001 and spend twelve seasons between the stampede capital, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks.
“His drive was to make the NHL and he was always told he wasn’t going to make it.”
Chris recalled a challenge he made with Steve that accurately summarized his brother’s resiliency:
“I bet him one time that he couldn’t swim across the lake. I bet him $1000 and he said, ‘let’s go.’ I jumped in the boat, he hopped in the lake. It was over an hour but he swam across that lake just to prove me wrong. He just loved to prove people wrong and would just take their negative energy and turn it in to positive.”
Steve’s preference for the underdog was his talking point with children, a demographic he was passionate about connecting with.
“He loved to drill kids full of positivity. He used to write ‘dream big’ everywhere. And he believed in it and he meant it. Dream big and do whatever you want to accomplish and don’t let anyone tell you it different. You know if it’s in your heart you can do it.”
Steve’s work ethic and resiliency was beyond what his career accurately reflects. His commitment to becoming a professional hockey player was in the name of disproving the naysayers and empowering the youth from his lessons in grit. His legacy will live on in the children he bonded with over dreaming big.