Hockey, in memoriam: Al Arbour, Steve Montador and who we lost in 2015

Hockey, in memoriam: Al Arbour, Steve Montador and who we lost in 2015

(Ed. Note: At the end of each year, Jen Conway, a.k.a. @NHLHistoryGirl on Twitter, publishes a remembrance for those we lost in the hockey world. We’re proud to host the 2015 edition, looking back on legendary names and those we lost too soon.)

By Jen Conway

As we say goodbye to 2015, we solemnly look back at those in the hockey community we lost. From the greats of the Montreal Canadiens dynasty years to the loss of two former players taken long before they were supposed to be -- sparking debate about the care given to players after their careers are over. 

The year started off with a loss that was linked to a marquee player in the NHL today, as J.P. Parise, father of Zach Parise passed away on January 7 after a battle with lung cancer. Parise registered 594 points in 890 games, a majority of them with the Minnesota North Stars and stops with the Islanders and Maple Leafs. Most notably, Parise was ejected from Game Eight of the 1972 Summit Series after almost attacking referee Josef Kompalla with his stick after Kompalla had made questionable calls against the Canadian team.

In August, legendary coach Al Arbour passed away at age 82. Arbour led the Islanders to their dynasty in the 1980s: four Stanley Cups and 15 playoff appearances overall between 1974 and 1994. Arbour also came back for one game in 2007 to reach 1,500 games coached with the Islanders. Prior to that, Arbour coached the St. Louis Blues from 1970 to 1972 after being the team’s first captain in 1967. Arbour won four Cups as a player with the Red Wings, Blackhawks, and two with the Maple Leafs in addition to the Islanders Cups and a Jack Adams Trophy for top coach in the NHL in 1979.

On the topic of dynasties, the Montreal Canadiens family lost several of their championship players. In April, Hall of Famer Elmer Lach passed away at age 97. Lach was a former MVP of the NHL and played on the “Punch Line” with Maurice Richard and Toe Blake, winning three Cups for the Habs during that time. Dollard St. Laurent also passed away in April. St. Laurent was a mainstay on the Habs blue line in the mid-1950s, helping the Habs to three Cups before going to Chicago and winning another Cup in 1961.

Another Hall of Famer, Dickie Moore, passed away on December 19th. Moore won six Cups with Montreal, won the Art Ross Trophy twice and was a three-time All Star. Hall of Famer Bert Olmstead died in November. Olmstead was a left wing who won four Cups with Montreal and one with Toronto before retiring and coaching the Oakland Seals in their inaugural season. Defenseman Jimmy Roberts won five Cups with Montreal while appearing in three All Star Games and playing in 1,006 NHL games with Montreal and St. Louis. One of the architects of the Habs dynasty in the 1970s, Claude Ruel, passed away in February. Ruel coached the Habs to the 1969 Stanley Cup, but stepped down midway through the 1970-71 season due to the stress of the coaching job. Ruel moved to a player personnel role during the ‘70s, but came back to coach 130 games from 1979 until 1981.

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 20: Steve Montador #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks waits for a face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 20, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 20: Steve Montador #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks waits for a face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 20, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The sudden death of Steve Montador in February left many unanswered questions. Montador was found dead at his home in Mississauga, Ontario with his brother Chris speculating that he stopped breathing or Steve’s heart just gave out. Steve’s passing sent waves throughout the NHL landscape with Dan Carcillo famously speaking with for The Player’s Tribune about the effect Montador had on his life and in Carcillo’s recovery from substance abuse problems.

Montador had problems with concussions and post-concussion symptoms, which led him to speak out about the depression he encountered after his concussions. The family donated Steve’s brain for research where it was found that he had suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to concussions over the years. This has continued the debate about the NHL’s protocols on concussions and the treatment by team staffs. Montador played 571 games with the Flames, Panthers, Ducks Blackhawks, Bruins, and Sabres

Another player gone too soon was Todd Ewen, who passed away in September due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Ewen played 518 games in the NHL with the Canadiens, Blues, and Mighty Ducks while amassing 1,911 PIMs during his career. The soft side of Ewen was shown when it was revealed that he enjoyed writing and illustrating children’s books of stories he told his two sons. Sadly, the member of the 1993 Cup winning Canadiens couldn’t avoid depression and took his own life September 19th in his suburban St. Louis home.

Other notable death in hockey in 2015:

Vic Howe (Nov. 2, 1929-Jan. 31, 2015) RW played parts of three seasons for New York Rangers. Brother of Gordie Howe.

Denis Tsygurov (Feb. 26, 1971-Jan. 10, 2015) D played for Sabres and Kings; was part of trade that sent Grant Fuhr to the Kings.

Jean-Paul Gladu( June 20, 1921-Feb. 1, 2015) LW played briefly for Bruins, better known as a standout scorer in the AHL.

Don McLeod (Aug 24., 1946-March 11, 2015) Goalie and holder of numerous WHA records. Played for Red Wings, Flyers, Nordiques, Oilers,Houston Aeros, Vancouver Blazers, and Calgary Cowboys.

Mark Reeds (Jan. 24, 1960-April 14, 2015) D played for Blues and Whalers before moving to coaching; coached in ECHL before joining Senators’ coaching staff.

Jaroslav Holik (Aug. 3, 1942-April 17, 2015) C played for Czechoslovakian national team, winning multiple international medals. Czech hockey legend who also coached. Father of Bobby Holik.

Marcel Pronovost (June 15, 1930-April 26, 2015) Hall of Fame D won 4 Stanley Cups with Red Wings and 1 with Leafs. Coached and became scout, notably for New Jersey Devils.

Doug Rombough (July 8, 1950-June 20, 2015) C played for Sabres, Islanders, and North Stars.

Greg Parks (March 25, 1967-June 16, 2015) RW played for Islanders and 1994 Olympic Team Canada. Member of Bowling Green 1987 championship team.

Wally Stanowski (April 28, 1919-June 28, 2015) D played for Leafs and Rangers. Won 4 Stanley Cups with Toronto and was last surviving member of 1942 and 1945 teams.

Leo Reise, Jr.(June 7, 1922-July 26, 2015) D played for Blackhawks, Red Wings and Rangers; won 2 Stanley Cups with Detroit.

Gus Mortson(Jan. 24, 1925-Aug. 8, 2015) D played for Leafs, Red Wings and Blackhawks. Won 4 Stanley Cups with Toronto and was an 8-time All Star.

Bob Fillion (July 12, 1920-Aug. 13, 2015) LW player for Canadiens, winning two Stanley Cups. Was last surviving member of Canadiens’ 1944 team.

Cummy Burton (May 12, 1936-Aug. 25, 2015) RW played for Red Wings. Notable for advocating re-retirement of Larry Aurie’s no. 6 which he wore; became sportscaster after retirement.

Chico Maki (Aug. 17, 1939-Aug. 24, 2015) RW played for Blackhawks, winning 1 Stanley Cup.

Jack Garrity (April 1, 1926-Aug. 31, 2015) RW played for 1948 Olympic Team USA and Boston University. Still holds NCAA and BU records. USHOF member.

Gilles Mayer (Aug. 24, 1929-Sept. 29, 2015) Standout AHL goalie, 3 time Calder Cup winner, 5-time Hal Holmes Award winner. First AHL goalie to wear a mask on regular basis. Played briefly for Leafs.

Fleming Mackell (April 30, 1929-Oct. 19, 2015) C/LW played for Leafs and Bruins. Won 2 Stanley Cups with Toronto.

Aldo Guidolin (June 6, 1932-Nov. 8, 2015) RW/D played for Rangers, primarily known for AHL play as a defenceman. Moved to scouting after retirement.

Glen Sonmor (April 22, 1929-Dec. 14, 2015) LW played briefly for Rangers; longtime front office member of the North Stars as coach and scout. Also coached WHA Fighting Saints and University of Minnesota; served as radio analyst for University of Minnesota men’s hockey.

(thanks to @scottywazz for research help)