Loss of sto­ried for­mer co-owner ‘a sad day for the Ot­tawa 67’s’

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - KEN WAR­REN kwar­ren@post­media.com

For­mer Ot­tawa 67’s owner Earl Montagano was both “a char­ac­ter” and a “tough ne­go­tia­tor,” ac­cord­ing to Ot­tawa Sports and En­ter­tain­ment Group pres­i­dent Jeff Hunt.

Montagano, who died of brain cancer Mon­day at age 91, served as the quiet part­ner along­side fel­low 67’s owner Howard Dar­win for 23 years, and is a mem­ber of the Ot­tawa Sports Hall of Fame.

“I dealt with Earl two or three times a week for six months,” Hunt said Mon­day. “He was quite the char­ac­ter over that time. He was funny in his own way, but he was an old-school busi­ness­man.”

Af­ter the sale of the 67’s was fi­nally com­plete — at the time, the $2.5-mil­lion price tag was the high­est ever paid for a Canadian ma­jor ju­nior fran­chise — Montagano in­vited Hunt to the Hunt and Golf Club for a din­ner to ce­ment the deal.

“He then took me down the locker-room,” Hunt said. “He opened up a big box of Wrigley’s gum and asked if I chewed. He said, ‘If you own the Ot­tawa 67’s, you can have all the gum you want.’ ”

Montagano, who owned a suc­cess­ful Ot­tawa travel com­pany, also ex­pe­ri­enced suc­cess with a heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion busi­ness and did well in the stock mar­ket. But he was per­haps most pas­sion­ate about hockey. Hunt said Montagano re­mained one of the club’s best fans, rarely miss­ing a game.

“The 67’s were a big part of his

The 67’s were a big part of his life. When we won the Me­mo­rial Cup (in 1999), he was as happy as any­one else.

life,” Hunt says. “When we won the Me­mo­rial Cup (in 1999), he was as happy as any­one else. Thanks to him and (Dar­win), the 67’s were in good hands for a long time.

“It’s a sad day for the Ot­tawa 67’s.”

Leg­endary 67’s coach and gen­eral man­ager Brian Kil­rea said he al­ways en­joyed shar­ing time with Montagano, of­ten over a cold one af­ter games at the Civic Cen­tre. Kil­rea also spent time vis­it­ing Montagano at his Florida condo.

Dar­win and Montagano “were the bosses, but they never acted like it,” Kil­rea says. “It was more if your un­cle or your dad walked into the of­fice. It was such a good at­mos­phere. Af­ter the game, whether it was Howard or Earl, if we had lost a game or lost a (play­off ) se­ries, there was never any brood­ing. It was just a great mood of part­ner­ship.”

The busi­ness re­la­tion­ship be­tween Montagano and Dar­win was also rock solid.

It started when Dar­win was des­per­ately seek­ing cash for the con­struc­tion of a build­ing on Welling­ton Street, next to his jew­elry store.

Dar­win’s wife, Con­nie, sug­gested he con­tact Gord Montagano — Earl’s brother — who had a con­nec­tion with Dar­win through their box­ing in­ter­ests. Gord, in turn, con­nected Dar­win to Earl.

It was the be­gin­ning of a great friend­ship and part­ner­ship. Dar­win died in 2009.

“Both my dad and Earl have been quoted about this be­fore, that they were closer than most broth­ers,” said Jeff Dar­win, one of Howard’s sons, who re­mem­bers as a child spend­ing days swim­ming at the Montagano house in west-end Ot­tawa.

“They never had a busi­ness dis­agree­ment. Earl was the quiet one. He let dad be the guy who was in the pa­pers and usu­ally did the talk­ing, but my dad would come to Earl many times.”

Montagano was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal in late De­cem­ber. As per his fi­nal wishes, he was brought home for the end of his life.

“It was a bit un­ex­pected that he went so quickly, and we had hoped we might get a few more months,” said Montagano’s daugh­ter, Ju­dith. “He and Brian (Kil­rea) and Howard (Dar­win) were all very close. It wasn’t about writ­ten con­tracts. They were all such good friends.”

Montagano’s wife, Norma, died in 2004. He leaves be­hind three daugh­ters, Ju­dith, Janet and Joanne, four grand­chil­dren and four great-grand­chil­dren — and end­less mem­o­ries.

There will be a pub­lic cel­e­bra­tion of Montagano’s life on Fri­day from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Tub­man Fu­neral Home at 3440 Rich­mond Rd.

CHRIS MIKULA FILES

Ot­tawa busi­ness­man and for­mer part-owner of the 67’s fran­chise, Earl Montagano is be­ing re­mem­bered as “quite a char­ac­ter” who was one of his team’s big­gest fans. Montagano died Mon­day at age 91.

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