SUNRISE — Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour takes pride in his Indigenous heritage.
The 28-year-old defenseman got a chance to get closer to it when he moved from his childhood town of Tillbury, Ontario to his birthplace of Brantford, Ontario during his high school years.
Brantford was located around 10-to-15 minutes away from Canada’s largest First Nation reservation — the Six Nations of the Grand River — and spent a lot of time there growing up.
“There were schools there, there were two arenas, so we had chances that other reserves didn’t have,” Montour said.
”We have our own police station, fire station, restaurants, so it’s lucky Six Nations has all that and is close to towns and Toronto is only an hour away. Some of the others don’t have access to all that.”
The Montours have spent a lot of time in the area, with Brandon’s dad growing up on the Six Nations reservation and his little brother playing at the local rinks when the family returned to the area.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” Montour said.
”They have their own team that has their own travel and house league. I know with COVID, kids haven’t had a chance when their parents haven’t been working.”
Montour has been working with the NHL Players Association’s Goals & Dreams Fund alongside his former Anaheim Ducks teammate Adam Henrique to help kids register for hockey and get gear.
”We do a charity event in the summers and a golf tournament, so we have raised money for that as well,” Montour said.
”Kids love to play hockey, lacrosse and all sports. We have access to all of that on Six Nations, so it’s nice.”
And it also presents a chance to be a role model for the kids.
Per Hockey Indigenous, Montour is one of 10 active NHL players and over 80 NHL alumni of Indigenous descent.
The Indigenous community in the sport of hockey has continued to grow even stronger in recent years, producing nine more drafted players who are currently affiliated with NHL teams.
”The more the merrier,” Montour said.
”It gives kids the belief and the opportunity that they can do it and make it like we did.”
Montour is not the first Indigenous player to represent the Panthers as he was preceded by fellow defenseman Brady Keeper.
Florida signed Keeper as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Maine in 2019 as the entire Pimicikamak First Nation celebrated him making his NHL debut in Ottawa on March 28, 2019.
In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, O’Canada was sung in English, French and Anishinaabemowin. Tonight’s ceremonial face-off featured Algonquin and Indigenous peoples and Florida Panthers rookie Brady Keeper, of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation. pic.twitter.com/C9xGFkHnBe
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 29, 2019
“I have been getting a lot of congratulations from different people I don’t even know, from different reservations back home,’’ Keeper said at the time.
“All the support I get from back home has been really cool. It has been unbelievable.
“Being the first guy to sign an NHL contract from my home, the first to play Division-I college hockey as well is something I take very seriously. I want to be a great role model, do the right things. There is some pressure, but I just think it’s pretty cool.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT DETROIT RED WINGS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
- Streaming/TV: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 4-0
- This season (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Detroit 1 (Dec. 8)
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 34-19-6, 5 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Sunday at Dallas, 3:30 p.m.