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Daniel Carcillo on Steve Montador's death: 'It's pretty alarming'

Carcillo: “Why isn't there anything that touches upon … the risks of us playing this game?”

Just like his good friend and former Blackhawks teammate Steve Montador, Daniel Carcillo had battled substance-abuse issues. Both players also had dealt with multiple concussions during their hockey careers; Carcillo has not played since March 25 after being diagnosed with concussion symptoms and his hockey career could be hanging in the balance.

Thursday morning after Hawks practice, Carcillo talked about the passing of a man he said helped him through some of the toughest times in his life.

"You could see something was going on with his brain other than him falling out of sobriety," Carcillo said.

His bottom lip quivered as he talked. His bare feet shifted anxiously as he tugged at a few stray black whiskers sprouting from his beard.

"It's pretty alarming," he said. "It would be nice if you knew the full depth of what you're getting into. We really don't."

Montador, who suffered multiple concussions during his 10 seasons in the NHL, was found dead in his Ontario, Canada, home Feb. 15. He was 35. An autopsy on his brain that Montador had arranged revealed that he suffered from extensive CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a brain disorder linked to concussions. An attorney for Montador's family has said it plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL.

Carcillo said he is trying to fulfill his friend's dream after his death and bring mental-health issues caused by head trauma to the forefront. He began by recording a video and writing a short essay for The Players' Tribune that was published April 22.

"First of all, it's hard to talk about for guys because they're afraid to say something so taboo, to go against something that they see (even) if they don't agree with it," Carcillo said. "It's not me calling out anybody. I just want to help improve it. I don't think that's a bad thing."

Carcillo said he could see hints of what Montador's autopsy confirmed, that he "saw first-hand the deterioration" of his mental well-being. He said every NHL player attends a mandatory substance-abuse meeting at the beginning of every training camp.

"Why isn't there anything that touches upon retirement and the risks of us playing this game?" he asked.

Montador's father, Paul Montador, reached out to Carcillo on Wednesday. Carcillo said the two planned to talk Thursday, "update each other where we're at," and continue to work to create a program.

Some coaches, fellow hockey players and other professional athletes also have reached out to Carcillo since his video was published, he said, adding that he's starting a nonprofit to support Montador's dream. He said he has been exchanging ideas with the NHL Players' Association to improve awareness.

Carcillo deflected questions about whether or not he would continue playing, which he hasn't done since he suffered the second documented concussion of his career. He was cleared medically April 30.

"I think about it, the world I'm in and my future in this game," he said. "I'm taking it day to day. I'm trying to enjoy the run we're on. … Whether I play hockey or not, that's the furthest thing from my mind. But when I go home there are definitely things I'm working on to improve this."

He's doing it, he said, because his friend was there for him. Carcillo said he and Montador would talk about their struggles, their spirituality, bettering themselves as human beings.

"When I came here I was in a new phase of my life, I was sober," Carcillo said. "Monty helped me find myself again when I got here and made me comfortable in my own skin, helped me take my power back. When I got here I just wanted something different. Monty helped me find that. I owed him a lot. He was a special guy."

Now, he's trying to pay him back.

pskrbina@tribpub.com

Twitter @ChiTribSkrbina

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