Steve Montador: Family of Deceased Hockey Player Sues the NHL

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Steve Montador, who played for six different NHL teams over a 13-year career, died earlier this year at the age of 35, due to undisclosed causes. An autopsy conducted seven months ago found that he had CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the same degenerative brain disorder that has led to criticism of the NFL’s head injury policies in recent years. In light of that discover, Montador’s family is now suing the NHL, claiming that the league failed to provide Montador with accurate information about the long term risks of consistent head trauma.

During Montador’s 13-year NHL career playing for the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, and Chicago Blackhawks spanned a grand total of 641 regular season and playoff games. He was involved in 69 fights during his time with the NFL, and the lawsuit alleges that he sustained thousands of hits to the head. He suffered from fifteen documented concussions; including four over a three month span when he played for the Blackhawks.

One of the Montador family’s lawyers, Thomas Demetrio, stated:

The NHL still refuses to accept the fact that its game creates permanent, progressive brain damage. Instead, the NHL disingenuously gives its players a false sense of security by leading them to believe that repetitive head trauma in the NHL will not cause brain damage or resulting addiction or depression issues

CTE, which can be caused by repeated head injury, can lead to memory loss, changes in mood, and behavioral changes. However, it can only be diagnosed after someone who has it has died. It’s been associated with sports that can lead to repeated instances of head trauma, including boxing, football, stunt cheerleading, and hockey. The NFL has particularly received criticism for its handling of players’ brain injuries over the last few years. In 2013, the NFL settled a lawsuit to the tune of $756 million with over 4,500 former players and/or their families. “Concussion,” a movie about Dr. Bennet Omalu, the doctor who is credited with discovering CTE is coming out this December, reigniting concerns about the effects of repeated head trauma on NFL players.

The NHL hasn’t had quite as high profile attention placed on it as the NFL when it comes to CTE and brain injuries, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been party to lawsuits on the issue previously. A federal class action lawsuit on behalf of former players was filed in October of last year, and is still ongoing. Like Montador’s family, the players allege that the NHL didn’t keep them reasonably safe, or provide them with proper information about the dangers of repetitive brain injury.

Another attorney from the firm working on Montador’s case told the Chicago Tribune:

By burying its head in the sand on the issue of brain damage among its retired player population, the NHL is doing a disservice to the players who gave their blood, sweat and tears to the game. It is high time for the league to recognize that many former players are suffering, and the NHL should step up to take care of these men and their families. The NHL’s body count is growing — how many more players will die with CTE before something meaningful is done to help those suffering?

It’s a tough contention–we’ll have to see if the case filed by Montador’s family makes any difference.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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