Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr remembered where he was when Steve Montador scored his first NHL playoff goal, a massive one, in fact, coming in overtime for the Calgary Flames against the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in 2004.
"I was on the ice. I think I was one of the first ones in there to give him a big bear hug,” Regehr said Monday.
They were in the midst of a special, almost magical playoff run for the Flames, coached by Darryl Sutter, who is now Regehr's coach in Los Angeles. The Flames went on to lose in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to Tampa Bay.
The goal, by the way, was the only one Montador scored in that playoff run. He would go on to score two more playoff goals in his career, one for Boston in 2009 and another for Buffalo in 2010.
Regehr was sharing his memories about his friend and teammate, a day after news broke of Montador's death, at age 35. Montador, until recent months, had been living in the L.A. area.
"He had a house rented out here, and he was spending some time out here," Regehr said. "I actually had seen him face to face at the rink. He’d been coming in to have coffee with Darryl and things like that.
"Like everyone has been saying, Steve was a great teammate. He loved life and was very passionate for whatever he was doing at that time and he had endless amounts of energy to pour into whatever he chose to do.
"It was a tough day yesterday."
They would go on to play for the Buffalo Sabres but were not there at the same time. Montador left his mark with the Sabres by the time Regehr arrived in 2011.
"Every person he played with had something positive to say about him," Regehr said. "For me, I knew him for a long time. I was part of his [start] as a player there in Calgary. Getting the chance to stay in touch with him and follow his career too, it was great to see him continue on and he actually brought his game up to a higher level. Unfortunately, there were also some other issues there as well.
"He had spoken about concussion issues and some depression, especially after being done with hockey. It’s a really tough time for some guys to transition to the next phase of their life.”
Regehr expanded on that thought. He is 34 and will turn 35 on April 19.
"I haven’t been through it yet," he said. "But my time is coming and everyone in here, at some point, is going to have to go through some sort of transition whether a player decides to stay in hockey or not.
"It’s difficult because we’ve been working so hard at one goal our entire lives. Right from when you are a kid when you are 3 or 4 years old and you start skating, to mid-30s or late-30s or whenever your career comes to an end.
"If you don’t have anything else and you don’t have a very strong support network set up, it makes for quite a tough time, a lonely time and one that some players really struggle with."
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