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Former Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador dead at 35

Former Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador has died at the age of 35.

The death of former teammate Steve Montador sent shock waves of sadness throughout the Blackhawks dressing room and across the NHL on Sunday.

A Peel Regional Police spokeswoman said Montador, who played 52 of his 571 career NHL games with the Hawks during the 2011-12 season, was found dead at his Mississauga, Ontario, home early Sunday morning. Foul play is not suspected and an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death, the police spokeswoman said. Montador was 35.

“Really tough, sad news,” winger Patrick Sharp said after the Hawks’ 2-1 victory over the Penguins. “He was a great teammate, a great friend. Some guys in here were very close with him. He was a leader in the room. He did a lot for the union for our team and leaguewide. He was a guy that was friendly with everybody. It was really disappointing to hear the news before the game.”

The police said Montador’s family had been notified and “is devastated and trying to come to grips with the loss.”

During a career that spanned parts of 10 seasons, Montador also played for the Flames, Panthers, Ducks, Bruins and Sabres. He had 33 goals and 98 assists in 571 games, including five goals and nine assists with the Hawks.

“We are all deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Steve Montador,” NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said in a statement. “Steve was a great person who quickly became a friend of everyone he came to know in the game: teammates, NHL club staff, the media and fans. Over the course of his career, he was an active member of the NHLPA and someone who I and our entire staff enjoyed working closely with. He dedicated a lot of his time to advance the interests of his fellow players. He will be greatly missed.”

It was another blow for the Hawks, who earlier this season were devastated by the death of assistant equipment manager Clint Reif.

“This news you’re hearing these days is hard to believe,” Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. “(Montador) will definitely be in our thoughts and prayers — and his family as well.”

During the 2011-12 season, Montador suffered a concussion that sidelined him for nearly a year. Nearing a return to action, the Vancouver-born Montador said the injury caused a disruption in the neural transmitters in his brain, and coupled with not being able to play the sport he loves, resulted in depression.

“I can see why people have a hard time with … being taken away from something they love to do and not sure if you'd ever get back the chance,” Montador said on March 8, 2013. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety and depression that comes with that. I've had a lot of help to work through that, and I feel like I’ve taken the right steps.”

Montador appeared in 14 games with Rockford before the Hawks bought out his contract. He then played a season in the KHL in Russia before retiring in December 2013. A few weeks later, Montador said in an email to the Tribune that he was pleased with the decision to leave the game.

“I’m grateful for this peace I have,” Montador wrote. “So I’m in as good a place as I’ve ever been.”

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