For a first-round-pick turned journeyman backup, Al Montoya seems to be rather ambitious about his new gig with the Florida Panthers.
Then again, as the first Cuban-American in the NHL, it makes sense that his signing can help the team off the ice. He detailed that interesting opportunity to the Miami Herald.
“I was blessed with a gift and the Cuban people are a motivated bunch, a passionate bunch,” Montoya said. “I’m just lucky enough to where I have an arena to show off my American dream. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’ve been. Everyone can play hockey. Like I said, the Cuban people are very passionate. Once they figure out what the game is like, it’s tough to let go.”
This is about more than just spreading the game to a demographic group that might not be totally inclined toward the sport, though. Montoya wants to be a difference-maker when he’s on the ice, as well.
“The coach and the team knows what I’m capable of and when I’m called, I’m going out there to win games,” he said. “I’m not just there to give Roberto a night off, I’m there to help the team move forward. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think things are headed in the right direction. I haven’t seen my best yet.”
If nothing else, Montoya showed that he could be a difference-maker when called upon last season. While Ondrej Pavelec put up discouraging numbers once again as the Winnipeg Jets’ starter (22-26-7, .901 save percentage), Montoya managed a 13-8-3 record and a nice .920 save percentage. As reliable as Luongo has been as one of the NHL’s most consistent performers in net, the Panthers would likely jump at the chance to give their 29-year-old backup a decent amount of reps if he can replicate his 2013-14 numbers.
That’s especially true if he draws more fans into the building.