Former Panthers Star Steve Montador Dies Suddenly at 35

Steve Montador played three seasons of his decadelong NHL career with the Florida Panthers, including his career-best year during 2007 and '08, when he scored eight goals and racked up 15 assists.

The former defenseman was found dead early Sunday morning at this home in Mississauga, Ontario. Montador, who was only 35 and one month away from becoming a first-time father, suffered from repeated concussions as a player and was set to join a class-action suit against the NHL for the injuries.

See also: Dave Duerson's secret life and tragic end

According to reports, police responded to a call from Montador's home at 2 a.m. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. Investigators are treating the case as a natural death. Neither suicide, drugs, nor foul play is suspected, but an autopsy will be conducted.

"We are not treating it as anything criminal," police spokeswoman Fiona Thivierge said. "It's a sudden death, so there's nothing to indicate anything untoward, just natural causes as far as we know."

Montador played with the Panthers between 2005 and 2008 before becoming an NHL journeyman with stops in Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, and Chicago. He then played in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League but was forced to end his career last year after suffering a string of concussions. TSN reports Montador was one of 200 plaintiffs in an upcoming lawsuit brought by former players against the NHL over concussions.

Indeed, Montador had spoken openly about how the damage he had taken on the ice had affected his mental health.

"I know people talk about sports being a microcosm for life, and it's very true that way," he told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2013. "I can see why people have a hard time with... being taken away from something they love to do. There's a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety and depression. I've had a lot of help to work through that, and I feel like I've taken the right steps."

He played a physical position and racked up numerous fights on the ice throughout his career. Teammates have been grappling with news of his death.

"It was very shocking," Stephen Weiss, a former Panthers teammate now with the Detroit Red Wings, told "It really hasn't sunk in yet. Monty was one of the most kind, generous guys you'd ever meet in the game, great teammate. Really willing to do a lot of things in the community wherever he was, with whatever team. He was one of my good buddies in the game for sure. I was close to Monty. I'm going to miss him."

The Panthers paid tribute to Montador last night with a moment of silence before their game against the St. Louis Blues.

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Kyle Munzenrieder