Remembering Monty (Part 4): Friends First

What makes a good friend?

Before listing off the traits, our own friends appear at the forefront of our minds and from there, so do the characteristics. For Jay Legault, Nick Robinson, and Mike Keating, Petes alumnus Steve Montador is that guy. 

“We met at a euchre Christmas party in Norwood, at a family farm,” recalling a gathering at Peterborough native Colin Beardsmore’s, Keating reflected on his initial introduction to Montador.

“Euchre is a pretty big card game in Peterborough and everyone plays it. Steve and I had a little strategy. He liked the fact, and that kind of kicked our relationship off. We always stayed in touch. When he moved to Peterborough we hung out more.”

Legault and Robinson met Monty in typical Peterborough fashion – at the arena.

“Steve and I we were on a minor bantam team together. We played on a summer hockey team together that a guy from Peterborough concocted and we became friends that way. A few years after that we were playing in the OHL against each other and we kept in touch that way and they ended up moving to Peterborough. He looked me up in the phone book and the rest was history,” explained Jay.

Monty 3

Following the Montador family move to Peterborough -somewhere between a barn euchre party and the rink- a group of friends was born.

“The hockey guys – whether they are on the same team or not – they stick together, and so we met him through Jay and we just welcomed him to the group. Monty was just sort of there, we took an instant loving to him.” 

To understanding Steve’s personality and his kind idiosyncrasies, it’s crucial to speak with the group that stood beside him from adolescence to adulthood. Keating recalled Steve using his connections to make his brother’s dream of meeting the Drop Kick Murphys come true. 

“During his time while playing in Boston he met some members from the band.”

At Collingwood’s Wakestock, Montador surprised his group of friends, including Mike’s brother, with a backstage visit to the Drop Kick Murphys and VIP seats to their performance.

We got to go backstage and hung out with the Drop Kick Murphys. Then the stage manager comes to us to take us to our seats and we think we are going to the side but nope, we walk straight across the stage and all the fans started cheering thinking the Drop Kick Murphys were coming out but it was us, and we actually stood on the stage as they played on stage. It was all for my brother.

“Steve did stuff like that all the time,” concluded Keating.

Robinson recalls reciting entire movies formed around slapstick comedy, like Dumb and Dumber or King Pin, alongside Steve.

“We were just constantly joking around and laughing.”

Moreover, he recounts the surge of fun Steve ignited in any trip they took regardless of its magnitude.

Legault, Montador, Robinson

“I think the punchline with him – whether it was driving in the car to a concert or the casino or to the movie or if you were travelling the world with him – the guy was funny and so fun to be around.”

Legault reiterated the same message, describing Montador as a ‘spur of the moment guy’ he could always count on and someone he shared a lot of inside jokes with.

In addition to his innate desire of igniting joy among his friends, Montador had a unique capacity to connect with strangers.

Robinson explained, “He firmly believed that through kindness people had the opportunity to change the course of people’s lives. He would exemplify it by example: we would be at dinner, and he would take the time to talk to the server. He would draw them into conversation and ask them their name and ask where they were from.”

In addition to restaurant staff, Steve had an affinity for people in other positions that were frequently taken for granted, like those working at road tolls.

“He befriended them so eloquently; he wanted them to know that people cared.”

Where awkwardness sometimes lives in introducing multiple friend groups, Steve relished in the opportunity to introduce his on-ice colleagues with his teenage-hood friends, and ensured that everyone felt included. His formula of being boundlessly kind and providing common courtesy proved successful as his circle of friends grew.

Robinson wedding in Santorini, Greece
Robinson wedding in Santorini, Greece

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as selfless as Steve. He was always thinking about other people and how he could be of service to them, commented Robinson.

Keating reiterated a similar narrative, describing the layers to Monty’s character.

“He always included everyone that was in his circle. It was a hockey thing in a sense. He always treated everyone equally whether they played hockey or not. He always talked about how you never know how much someone has to say until you listen and he always listened and he was a real deep guy and a real fun guy.”

On February 15, 2019 Steve passed away at his home in Mississauga. Montador faced a series of concussions throughout his ten seasons in the NHL, resulting in the burdening symptoms that plague an affected athlete’s day to day. The response from the hockey community upon the revelation of Montador’s concussions and their fatal consequences sparked serious inquiries into team protocols and a demand for further research.

Steve committed himself to fully understanding his brain and taking the necessary steps to help it.

“He would send me videos. He was inside this gravity free machine that would flip him around. It was probably the toughest thing that ever happened to me in my life,” noted Keating.

Mike honoured the impact left by Steve and named his first son after his best friend.

Robinson summarized the feeling that all shared following Monty’s passing.

“It was just crushing. So many people love the guy. I think he was very open about what he was going through. He was very open about the concussions, he was very open about his family and his friends. Even when he was playing at the end, he was very cognizant of what was going on with his brain.”

Legault remarked on the emptiness in friend gatherings, where his laughter would otherwise live.

Steve's nephews, son Morrison and sister Lindsay
Steve’s nephews, son Morrison and sister Lindsay

This year marked the fourth anniversary of Steve’s death, and although his physical presence is absent his memory resides in stories between his friends over group text messages and conversations when they reunite. Furthermore, he lives on in charitable events his friends coordinate to help others living with concussions, like the H.O.P.E’s Gaskell Cup.

Steve was undoubtedly successful on the ice, but Jay Legault, Nick Robinson, and Mike Keating remember Monty as a world class friend –  someone who gave more than he took and profoundly touched each one of their lives.

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