Stu Cowan: Canadiens' Sam Montembeault lights up fan's life

Goaltender receives a special Christmas card from fan with Down syndrome and his mother for his willingness to always pose for a photo.

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The Canadiens mean the world to Jeremy Mylo.

The 26-year-old has Down syndrome and a severe verbal apraxia speech disorder, making it difficult for him to communicate. Despite that, Mylo is able to attend the Centre for the Arts in Human Development program at Concordia University in therapeutic fine arts.

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Jeremy is very autonomous and able to take the bus, REM and métro travelling to school on Mondays and Fridays from his family home in Carignan on the South Shore and when he wants to go downtown to meet friends. His favourite place to go is the CN Sports Complex in Brossard.

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Over the last 10-plus years, Jeremy has become a familiar face at the Canadiens’ practice rink, especially to the players. After watching practice, Jeremy waits outside in the parking lot, hoping to get photos of himself with players as they leave.

Jeremy has accumulated a huge collection of photos and they fill his Facebook page. He has photos with just about every player on the current Canadiens roster and with GM Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton, the executive vice-president of hockey operations. Some players get out of their cars to pose for a photo with him. One of Jeremy’s friends gave him the nickname Habby because of his love for the Canadiens and because he’s always happy.

Jeremy’s favourite player is Samuel Montembeault because the goaltender always stops to see him.

“Every single time I’ve been there with Jeremy, Sam Montembeault stops — 100 per cent of the time,” said Jeremy’s mother, Lindi Ross. “I want to call his mother and just congratulate her on what an amazing young man he is. I think he’s Jean Béliveau in terms of what I’ve experienced with him. His energy is beautiful. He’s in my heart. He makes my son so happy and that makes me happy.”

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So happy that Ross and her son decided to make a Christmas card for Montembeault with a montage of photos of the goalie with Jeremy and some of his friends. Jeremy’s mother also wrote a poem and put it in the card:

The inside of Christmas card that Canadiens fan Jeremy Mylo and his mother made for the Canadiens' Samuel Montembeault.
This is this inside of Christmas card that Canadiens fan Jeremy Mylo and his mother made for the Canadiens’ Samuel Montembeault. Facebook

In the land of hockey, where cold winds blow,

Lives a skilled goalie named Sam Montembeault.

From his crease that he guards with such might,

Wearing the Habs jersey proudly in blue, red and white.

On the ice his prowess, like a dance,

Blocking shots with grace, this champion goaltender’s stance.

In the world of hockey, may Sam continue to have the winning grip,

May his glove hand always be quick, and the puck never slip.

But beyond the rink, where the fans adore,

His kindness and grace, we cannot ignore.

Autographs signed with a generous hand,

A touch of class, like the great Béliveau, Sam is so grand.

Dear Sam, goalie number thirty-five,

Jeremy Mylo, your #1 fan, sends holiday vibes.

Happy holidays, Sam — may joy be your guide,

On the ice and beyond, with triumph by your side.

Jeremy was able to give Montembeault the card after a recent practice.

“It was awesome,” Montembeault said when asked about the card. “I didn’t even realize we took that many pictures together. When he gave me the card I opened it in front of him. It was full of pictures of me and him. You always see him there waiting after practice and it puts a smile on his face. He’s always so happy to see the guys. It was really nice to give me a card.”

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Montembeault added that he enjoys stopping to take photos with fans. Jeremy’s mother said there are times when the goalie parks his car outside the CN Sports Complex instead of in the players’ garage, making it easier for him to mingle with fans after practice.

“If I see there’s fans outside I’ll stop — even if there’s only one fan or 20 fans,” Montembeault said. “I think it’s important to give back. We saw during COVID how important fans are. When the stands were empty it wasn’t as much fun. They’re always there supporting us, so I think it’s important to give back to them.”

Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Brendan Gallagher, Mike Matheson, Jordan Harris, Sean Monahan, Juraj Slafkovsky and Alex Newhook also rank among Jeremy’s favourite players — although he likes them all. Jeremy’s mother chuckled recalling how Newhook — who is sidelined with a high ankle sprain — came out in the parking lot to pose for a photo recently on the little scooter he’s using to get around while his injury heals.

“He was so nice and had so much energy,” Jeremy’s mother said.

Jeremy’s mother was overjoyed when she learned recently that Hughes had signed Montembeault to a three-year, US$9.45-million contract extension that runs through the 2026-27 season. Jeremy was worried the Canadiens might trade the goalie and so was his mother.

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The first time Jeremy posed for a photo with Hughes, his mother didn’t know who the GM was.

“That was embarrassing,” she said. “Now, every time he sees us he comes out and we have quite a few pictures with him. What a sweetheart of a man. He’s very gracious and a real gentleman.

“I used to watch hockey back in the day with my dad in the days of John Ferguson and Béliveau and (Yvan) Cournoyer,” the mother added. “Jeremy watches the games now with my husband and some of our friends. I watch from a distance.”

Jeremy never misses a game on TV and his bedroom is painted bleu-blanc-rouge and filled with Canadiens memorabilia. His passion for the Canadiens really started when he attended a game at the Bell Centre more than 10 years ago and Max Pacioretty gave him a stick and a puck at rinkside during the pregame warmup.

“He’s so sweet, my son, that he gave the puck to a little kid who was beside him,” Jeremy’s mother recalled.

Jeremy kept the Pacioretty stick and still uses it when he plays road hockey.

Jeremy’s not interested in getting autographs from players (like professional autograph-seekers who can hound players), he just enjoys getting his photo taken with them.

Jeremy’s face lit up when told how happy Montembeault was to receive his Christmas card.

When Jeremy’s mother was asked if there was something she would want to say to Montembeault, she responded: “I just want to say I love you … you’re in my heart. It might sound a little weird, but his kindness to my son — there’s nothing that makes me happier. Nothing.”

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