Before concussions were a hot-button topic in hockey, Steve Montador knew all about the impact of head injuries. Five years ago, while he was still playing in the NHL, Montador committed to donating his brain to future research.
Dr. Charles Tator of the University of Toronto told that story at Montador's memorial service Saturday in Mississauga, Ont. It's one final showing of generosity that many of his friends and former teammates didn't know about.
"He didn't know when it was going to be, but when it did happen he wanted to donate his brain," former Calgary Flames teammate and current assistant general manager Craig Conroy said. "That just tells you what kind of person he was. Obviously it's way too early, but if it helps someone else, that's what he was always about."
Montador died Feb. 15 at the age of 35, more than a year after lingering concussion symptoms forced him to leave his KHL team in Croatia. The defenceman didn't play professional hockey again.
His decision to donate his brain didn't surprise those close to him.
"He was very intellectual himself and looking for answers and trying to figure out what made things work and how to improve things," retired enforcer George Parros said. "And if he could donate his brain to figure out how to best treat concussions and things like that, then he would certainly do it."
Brain injuries have been the subject of much discussion lately, especially after the 2011 death of enforcer Derek Boogaard. Research determined Boogaard, who died of an accidental drug overdoes, had CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) a degenerative brain condition.
Rick Martin of Buffalo Sabres French Connection fame and former Detroit Red Wings tough guy Bob Probert were also posthumously diagnosed with CTE, which has also been found in NFL players and professional wrestlers. Research is ongoing to determine the link between concussions, depression and CTE.
Longtime defenceman Mathieu Schneider had concussions during his career but was fortunate they didn't affect him as much as they did Montador, who battled depression at times when he was unable to play.
"Obviously it had a tremendous effect on his life," said Schneider, who got to know Montador through work with the NHL Players' Association. "The players that do have those effects are extremely passionate about it and he was certainly one of the most vocal. He was a leader."