It wasn’t the plan for those events to overlap. And Montour nearly missed the birth of son Kai because of hockey.
Montour was in Las Vegas for Game 1 of the Panthers’ series against the Golden Knights on Friday when his wife, Ryian, went into labor back east. Montour didn’t find out until after the Panthers’ 5-2 loss and was immediately whisked onto a nerve-wracking cross-country flight to Florida.
“I was getting texts from her parents just with where she was at. They didn’t think I was going to make it,” Montour told reporters Wednesday after the Panthers’ practice. “So, I honestly didn’t sleep at all. Got right there to Boca [Raton], went to the delivery room, and it was kind of game on from there, and he came at noon. We were joking, but it was like as soon as I got there, it was straight to work — for her, not me. I didn’t obviously know when he was going to come; I was a little upset, and I tried to get there as quickly as I could. But luckily, I was there … and got the experience with her.”
The 29-year-old said his wife was supposed to be induced on June 14, right after Game 5 of the series, when the Panthers would be home. Kai, naturally, had other thoughts. The back-and-forth adventure — Montour was on a plane back to Vegas for Game 2 hours after meeting the little one — should be good preparation for the unpredictability of fatherhood.
“We had a little excitement before we even left [for Game 1]; we thought maybe it was going to happen [then],” said Panthers coach Paul Maurice. “But good that he was there for it. Monty is a physical specimen. He can handle a little fatigue, and I think it was just a good way for him to get used to becoming a father, or a mother for that matter. Sleep debt is your life for the next couple of years. [Being there] for the birth was really a good thing to happen. He missed the first drive home; we had a laugh about that. But he’ll be there for a lot of firsts.”
Montour was hoping Kai’s arrival might be a good luck charm for the Panthers in evening the Cup Final with a Game 2 victory. That didn’t come to fruition as Florida fell 7-2 and now trails the Golden Knights 2-0 as the series shifts to Panthers home ice for Game 3 on Thursday.
Still, Montour felt the love from his teammates in the wake of a momentous personal occasion.
“They’re great,” Montour said. “Obviously I have family back home, but this is my family when I’m at the rink, and we all care about what’s going on in our lives, and they’re excited for me. Unfortunately, Game 2 didn’t end the way we wanted, but we tried to have that motivation of a new baby in the world to help us out. It’s nice to come back and try to get back to business as quickly as you could.”
Florida hasn’t trailed in a playoff series since its first-round matchup against Boston, when the Panthers came back from a 3-1 hole to eventually beat the Bruins in seven. Montour had five goals in that matchup, and Florida could use more of those contributions from him now. The Panthers have been outscored by Vegas 12-4 in the Cup Final, thanks in part to terrific goaltending by Adin Hill (.939 SV%).
Montour predicts Florida can find a way to crack Hill — and watch the floodgates open from there.
“He’s a good goalie. You’ve got to get in his face, make it tougher to see,” Montour said. “I’d like to bear down on my chances. I’ve had a few in the last couple of games here. He’s made some big saves. He’s playing well. A team like that, they don’t give much. We’ve got to get one here, and hopefully they can keep trickling in.”
Panthers’ Brandon Montour rushes to birth of his child