Montana Onyebuchi – Always Speak and Smile
August 5, 2022
Montana Onyebuchi says he didn’t know much about hockey before getting into the sport because no one in his family had really played much. He started his hockey journey around the age of seven, he played football and soccer until friends at school started playing ball hockey. This piqued his interest enough, that when he was about seven years old, Onyebuchi came home and asked his mother if he could play hockey.
“Since then, I fell in love with the game and my brothers joined and everything,” Onyebuchi said.
Fast forward to the 2021-22 season and Onyebuchi came to San Jose prepared for his first professional season with the Barracuda. After just 20 games in his final season as a junior, making the jump to professional hockey was an adjustment for the defenseman. Specifically noting the difference in speed and that he was playing in a league where others were further along in their development, being bigger, stronger and having more experience. Also, no longer living on tickets and flying to away games rather than taking a bus to each location was a change for the freshman Barracuda.
After seeing eight games with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL and 46 games with the Barracuda in his rookie season, Onyebuchi re-signed for another year with San Jose in June, which he describes as a feeling great.
“I’m delighted to be back. Last year wasn’t what we wanted the result to be, but we tried. For me, personally, I spent my first year on the sidelines and got experience under my belt. I was really excited about re-signing.
Not only is Onyebuchi thrilled to be back, but fans are excited to have him back, having noticed the physicality of Onyebuchi’s game throughout his first season in San Jose.
“I think it’s always been part of my game,” he said of that physique. “I’m pretty intense and I’m super competitive.”
This competitive nature allowed him to bring a lot of energy to any team he was part of. He knows guys know they can pull him if they need to. While Barracuda head coach John McCarthy said it was important to establish a player’s role early so that communication and trust have time to develop. That said, he always talks and smiles on the ice, Onyebuchi knows exactly what his role is, but he also wants to take on more responsibility in the future.
“My role is a defender who stays at home, who makes shots, a good stick, who doesn’t get scored and that sort of thing, but when it comes to the big picture, I think i can energize everyone and everyone Ready to go. I want to be a leader in the team. I think I’m going to be more vocal and bring that aspect as well. I change things. I am an impact player. I have a physical aspect that few people can bring. Sometimes, in certain situations, I have to defend my teammates and all that, and I’m ready to do that. I think it is necessary. I know the feeling of playing against someone who is really intimidating and the energy that brings. I see guys; it kills their confidence. If I can bring that confidence back with us, for the team, I think that’s huge.
Speaking of his overall game, Onyebuchi’s description of what he brings to the team seems to align with what the San Jose organization looks for in its players.
As for what he wants to show off a bit this upcoming season, starting with training camp? Onyebuchi says his skating and shooting are things he has been working on over the summer, mentioning that he has good feet now and is looking forward to showing off his abilities this year.
As he enters his second season in the AHL, one bit of advice he would give himself if he could return at the start of last season would be to be patient.
“Trust the process. Don’t ride too high and don’t ride too low. I think it’s a great thing because I can get into my head a lot. I think if I can keep that balance and consistency, it would do wonders for me.
Development Camp Stories
With new faces on the ice and behind the bench, Onyebuchi feels great in the Barracuda squad as they head into the season ahead.
As for one of those faces behind the bench, new Barracuda defense coach Louis Mass may have arrived at the WHL’s Everett Silvertips after Onyebuchi was traded to the Kamloops Blazers, but the defender says he remembers the games their teams faced each other at the juniors. The Barracuda defender is excited to get to work with Mass, saying at development camp they had a chance to talk and there was nothing but good energy from the interaction .
“[Louis Mass] is an outstanding coach from what I’ve heard and seen. He gave me some great tips for getting home and working over the summer and I’m excited to get things done with him.
The second story shared by Onyebuchi from the development camp was funny.
“It happens to someone every year. This year I got the short end of the stick,” Onyebuchi said of an unfortunate part of his July development camp trip.
Flying to San Jose with his checked luggage, including his hockey bag, and the unfortunate happened. His hockey bag didn’t arrive when Onyebuchi arrived and wasn’t delivered to Sharks Ice until the day before he returned to Manitoba.
“I was using the Vlasic and Weatherby stuff,” Onyebuchi noted, “so it wasn’t ideal.”
That said, he thinks camp went well, adding that it was nice to see the guys again and have a good laugh with everyone.
Get to know Montana Onyebuchi
Tell us about your gameday routine:
Head to the ice rink.
Get our morning skate and stretch.
Nap about an hour to an hour and a half, it can not last longer.
Order a smoothie, then order rice and chicken or pasta. Chicken Alfredo. I’m not too picky about the lunch I have. Depends if I have a good game eating that, I’ll eat that next game. Or if I had a good game eating that, I’ll eat that next time. I just have to change it.
It’s the routine before entering.
Listen to music, of course, on the way.
At the rink, I just hang out for a while, record my stick, just listen to my music by myself for a little while, then take them off.
Take some Powerade and drink plenty of water, I drink all the time, then play the sewer until I have to get ready.
That is just about everything. Nothing crazy. No superstition.
Top 3 Music Artists That Need To Be On Your Playlist
For me, I would choose Polo G, number one. He’s a rap artist. I like Polo G. So I’d go Drake for sure, and then I’d go Gideon, number three.
If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?
I would be an orange.
Orange is my favorite color and I think they have a hard shell, but underneath they are quite soft and sweet.
What would be your perfect pizza?
I just want barbecue chicken with bacon on it. Maybe some alfredo sauce too, so good.
If you could be an elite player in any other sport, which sport would you choose?
I’m thinking basketball. Honestly, I’m thinking basketball. I would say football because I like playing football much more than I like playing basketball, but football is much more dangerous and you can’t play that long. I’d rather be a LeBron than a Mahomes. You just take hits. I think basketball would be just a cool, casual sport. Or even golf would be nice, being a Tiger Woods.
Your favorite flavor of ice cream?
I think if I went to an ice cream shop and they had all the flavors of ice cream and they had [bubble]eraser, I would choose it. It contains little balls of gum, and you can just chew them afterwards.
Best memory from last season:
I think a cool experience was when we went to the ranch. The whole team is out. Roy took us camping and we all sat down and told personal stories and I think that’s when we bonded well. Outside of hockey, we rode horses, we played, we hung out on the beach, we played spike ball and football, and it was cool. It was definitely one of my fondest memories.
Thoughts on playing in Tech CU Arena:
I think it will be quite sweet actually.
In the smaller arena, that atmosphere will be so much better. I think it’s going to bring a lot of energy, just make the games more intense for sure.
We’re excited to see you in the new arena, because the fans make a big difference.