Stars announce Álvaro “Al” Montoya as director of community outreach

FRISCO, TX – Dallas Stars President and CEO Brad Alberts announced today the hiring of Álvaro “Al” Montoya to serve as the club’s Director of Community Outreach. The newly created position will be focused on helping the organization grow the game of hockey among underrepresented fans, including Spanish-speakers like himself.

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“The Dallas Stars are taking a proactive approach to ensuring that underrepresented communities have a voice at the table,” said Montoya. “From my initial conversations with the executive leadership team, I was impressed with their vision for this position because it was beyond just a figurehead or networking resource. Along with numerous other responsibilities, I will be given the chance to be involved with the decision-making process that will impact how the team connects with those who might not have any experience or background in the sport. I am grateful to the Stars for the opportunity to be put in a position that empowers me to positively impact my new home in North Texas.”

Behind the Mask: Al Montoya

I remember the first time I ever put on a goalie mask.

I was seven, playing in a house league at the old Glenview Park District ice arena back home in Illinois. And at that point, on that team, being the goalie was like losing a bet or something. We used to have to pass the goalie bag to a different player before each game. No one wanted the job. And the beat-up bag with recycled equipment didn’t exactly help sell it.

But for me? As a little kid looking for new ways to have fun? Are you kidding?

To me, it was like that bag was filled with gold. What was inside couldn’t have been any more special — the old-school leather pads, one of those ancient chest protectors where it was just the chest and you had to slide on the arms, the whole thing. It may as well have been Patrick Roy’s or Eddie Belfour’s gear. In my eyes, it was beautiful.

First Cuban American NHL Player Al Montoya Looks to Expand Hockey’s Reach in Hispanic Community

Al Montoya, the first Cuban American to play in the NHL, says he was also the first native Spanish speaker in the 100-year history of the league.

Montoya finds both facts amazing, but also believes members of the Hispanic community would fall in love with the game as he did while growing up in Chicago. That is as long as they’re given the opportunity to try the sport.

“I realized the weight of what being the first Cuban American was the day I got drafted,” Montoya said. “You’re not representing yourself anymore. You’re representing the community. And I embraced it.”

He spent 15 years in professional hockey as a goaltender, but it’s also his family history that results in Montoya speaking with such pride.

Montoya’s mother was born and raised in Cuba. His grandparents fled Cuba and from the Castro regime in 1963 for the United States. They went from being landowners in Cuba to Montoya’s grandfather “selling strawberries on the side of the road and working at McDonald’s,” Montoya shared.

It’s the work ethic from his grandparents, and his mother working as a doctor, that has rubbed off on Montoya, now 35 years old. He recalls his grandfather telling him how grateful he was for the United States, the place that gave him his freedom.

“One of the prouder moments of my life is standing on that blue line or that red line, looking up at our flag and knowing the sacrifices that they made to give me that opportunity of freedom,” Montoya said. “They passed it down to me. I can’t say enough about it.”

Raised by his single mother and his grandparents along with three brothers, Montoya followed his older brother in playing hockey. Montoya started out as a skater, taking up hockey at 3 years old. He began hockey as a forward, but the next year, his team didn’t have a goalie. He remembers playing in a house league before that, where the goaltender bag cycled between teammates, allowing everyone a shot to try the position.

Al Montoya hopes to make impact like Willie O’Ree

One day, Al Montoya might be considered the Willie O’Ree of the Cuban-American community.

Nothing would make him prouder.

Montoya, a veteran goaltender in his first season with the Montreal Canadiens, is the first player of Cuban heritage to play in the NHL; O’Ree became the first black player in NHL history when he made his debut with the Boston Bruins against the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum on Jan. 18, 1958.

Canadiens sign Al Montoya to a two-year extension

MONTREAL — Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced on Monday a two-year contract extension for goaltender Al Montoya (2017-18 and 2018-19).

In 11 games with the Canadiens in 2016-17, Montoya has a 4-4-2 record, with one shutout. The 6-foot-2, 209-pound goaltender boasts a 2.74 goals-against average, and has stopped 290 of the 319 shots he has faced for a .909 save percentage.