Jim Montgomery won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best top on Monday, and it meant much more than a record season with the Bruins –– the honor marked how far the head coach has come on his journey with alcohol abuse.
“Three and a half years ago the Dallas Stars terminated my contract because of my struggles with alcohol,” Montgomery said in his speech Monday night at the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. “And I had to change my actions and behaviors.
“And that’s when my new team, the most important team in my life, is what leads to the success that I live daily right now.”
The Stars fired Montgomery in December 2019 after nearly a year and a half with the team for what general manager Jim Nill described as “a material act of unprofessionalism contrary to the [team’s] values and standards.”
Montgomery soon spoke out, tying his departure to alcohol struggles, and vowed to get his life back on track not only for himself but for his family.
“Losing my job as head coach of the Dallas Stars last month was a wake-up call. It was also the appropriate call,” Montgomery said at the time.
“The team’s decision to end my role forced me to look into the mirror and decide whether I wanted to continue living a damaging lifestyle or get help. I decided to get help.”
In January 2020, Montgomery admitted himself to an inpatient residential program to combat alcohol abuse.
Montgomery returned to the NHL bench the following season when he was hired as a St. Louis Blues assistant coach that September before heading to Boston in 2022 for the head coaching position left vacant by Bruce Cassidy.
“For those who struggle out there, you can change,” Montgomery said. “You can effect change within yourself and it doesn’t happen alone.
“You need a team.”
Montgomery thanked his family, specifically his wife, for their unwavering support, but also the guys inside the Bruins locker room with whom he had an open dialogue regarding his past.
“I have found being vulnerable creates trust more than anything,” he said, according to ESPN. “And being vulnerable is actually a strength. Everybody has things that they battle in life.”
Despite Boston’s first-round, Game 7 collapse, they plowed through the regular season with an NHL record of 65 wins and 135 points.
But Montgomery wasn’t the only Bruin that brought home hardware on Monday night.
Linus Ullmark won the Vezina Trophy for top goaltender, and captain Patrice Bergeron collected his sixth Selke Award.
Montgomery said all the Bruins’ awards were because of the team’s culture and leadership.
His own mentality played a big role in that as well, he said.
“I wake up every day and write down what I’m grateful for, and that just sets my head straight and it creates happiness from within and then I’m able to be able to spread that happiness to others,” Montgomery said.