May 27, 2024

Montour of Panthers gets hero’s welcome from Six Nations community

OHSWEKEN, Ontario — Brandon Montour and the Florida Panthers may have come three victories shy of winning the Stanley Cup, but he’ll always be a hero here.

On Thursday, residents of the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve showed him just how much of one he is.

The 29-year-old defenseman is of Mohawk descent and grew up in Ohsweken, a village inside Six Nations, which has the highest population of any First Nation in Canada. His father, Cam Montour, is Indigenous Canadian.

Brandon finished the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 13 points in 21 games and led all defensemen with eight goals. But after being the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, the Panthers’ Cinderella run came to an end in the Cup Final when they lost in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights.

No matter. For the people here, he remains one of their own, someone they are fiercely proud of. As such, they wanted to throw him a party, even if he didn’t know much about it.

“It’s awesome,” Brandon said, looking out at the hundreds who congregated at Gathering Place By The Grand for the celebration in his honor. “My mom reached out and said they were going to do something for me, but I didn’t know how big it was going to be or what it was going to be all about.

“Seeing all this, well, this is what it was all about. They show up for anyone from here that’s successful, and obviously it’s nice to see.”

Video: FLA@BOS, Gm7: Montour’s second goal ties it in 3rd

Montour was born 11 miles away in Brantford, hometown of the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, Wayne Gretzky. He spent his childhood between Six Nations and the southwestern Ontario city of Chatham.

When the Panthers reached the Cup Final, the community here wanted to show its pride and quickly found a way.

“At that time, we were discussing that we’ve got a young guy, one of our members at the top stage, and how do we acknowledge him? And how do we recognize it? How do we support him?” said elected Chief Mark B. Hill of Six Nations of the Grand.

The answer: Hold watch parties for each game at the same venue where his party was held Thursday.

Fans flocked to the events, regardless of the weather. In fact, during one of the Saturday night games (Chief Hill could not recall if it was for Game 1 or 4), they showed up despite the fact the community was temporarily without electricity.

“It was a scheduled power outage, so we knew it was coming,” Chief Hill said. “But there was a generator there, so we still showed the game. And when people heard about that, they jammed the place.

“It was amazing. We had it all set up with the little lights, the screen still going, it was awesome. It was like a nice big living room for the community.”

But the Six Nations’ love for Montour didn’t end there.

Chief Hill and the reserve’s administration wanted to find a way to give back to the community too. They created lawn signs sporting Montour’s image wearing a Panthers uniform that the public could buy for $50 in support of the playoff run. In a matter of days, Montour’s picture was seen in front of homes all across the reserve.

About $10,000 was raised through those sales, with all funds going to the six minor sports associations in Six Nations – Six Nations Minor Softball, Six Nations Minor Hockey, Six Nations Figure Skating Club, Six Nations Lacrosse Association, Six Nations Girls Field Lacrosse and Six Nations Boys Field Lacrosse.

“It was great,” said Tammy Montour, Brandon’s mother. “To see all the support for him with people decorating their yards and the signs for him at the stores, it was really cool.”

Video: CHI@FLA: Montour helps Panthers finish comeback in OT

Through it all, Brandon was with the Panthers trying to win the Stanley Cup, all the while impervious to the activities that were going on back at Six Nations.

“I knew they were doing something, but not all that,” he said. “I had no idea. Very cool.”

So, for that matter, would be bringing the Stanley Cup here one day for a victory celebration.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s what we’re striving for. And as you can see, even though we lost, you can see how much support there is here. Just look around the room.

“To bring it back eventually, you can only imagine how big it will be.”

As Montour was speaking, Tammy was nearby holding Brandon’s 8-week-old son, Kai, in her arms. With Kai arriving during the Cup Final, Brandon flew to Florida from Las Vegas after Game 1 to witness his son’s birth, then immediately left to be back in time for Game 2.

“It was obviously pretty surreal, the whole situation, with the playoffs, the birth, everything happened pretty quick,” he said. “But now things have died down a little bit and there’s time for me to get healthy, my wife to get healthy and get to spend some time with both of them before things get ramped up again.

“Between the arrival of Kai and the way the community has supported me, it’s been amazing.” 

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