Montana Onyebuchi - Always Talking and Smiling
Lizz ChildAug 5, 2022
Montana Onyebuchi says he didn’t know much about hockey before he got into the sport as nobody in his family had really played much. Starting his hockey journey when he was about seven years old, he had been playing football and soccer until some friends at school started playing ball hockey. This piqued his interest enough, that when he was about seven years old, Onyebuchi went home and asked his mom if he could play hockey.
“Ever since then, I just fell in love with the game and my brothers joined and everything,” said Onyebuchi.
Fast forward to the 2021-22 season and Onyebuchi came to San Jose prepared for his first pro season with the Barracuda. Following just 20 games in his final season in the juniors, making the jump to the 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 with billets and flying to away games rather than taking a bus to every location was a change for the first-year 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, something he describes as an awesome feeling
“I’m excited to be back. Last year wasn’t what we wanted the outcome to be, but we tried. For me, personally, I got my first year out of the way and got some experience under my belt. I’ve been really excited about re-signing.”
Not only is Onyebuchi excited to be back, but fans are excited to have him back, having noticed the physicality of Onyebuchi’s play throughout his first season in San Jose.
“I think that’s always been a part of my game,” he said of that physicality. “I’m pretty intense and I’m super competitive.”
That competitive nature has allowed him to bring a lot of energy to any team he’s been part of. He knows that guys know they can pull him in if they need to. While Barracuda head coach John McCarthy has commented that it is important to establish a player’s role early so that communication and trust have time to develop. Having said that he is always talking and smiling on the ice, Onyebuchi knows exactly what his role is, but he wants to take on more responsibility moving forward as well.
“My role is a stay-at-home defenseman, get shots through, good stick, don’t get scored on and that kind of thing, but when it comes down to the bigger picture, I think I can get everybody energized and everybody ready to go. I want to be a leader on the team. I think I’m going to be more vocal and bring that aspect as well. I’m a game changer. I’m an impact player. I have a physical aspect not many people can bring. Sometimes, in situations, I have to stick up for my teammates and stuff, and I’m willing to do that. I think it’s necessary. I know the feeling of playing against somebody that is really intimidating and the energy that brings. I see some guys; it kills their confidence. If I can bring that confidence back with us, for the team, I think that’s huge.”
Talking about his overall game, Onyebuchi’s description of what he brings to the team seems to line up with what the organization in San Jose is looking for in their players.
As for what he wants to show off a little bit this upcoming season, starting with training camp? Onyebuchi says his skating and his shot are things he’s been working on this summer, mentioning that he’s got good feet now and he can’t wait to display his abilities this year.
As he heads into his sophomore season in the AHL, a bit of advice he’d give himself if he could go back to 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 that’s a big thing because I can get in my head a lot. I think if I can keep that balance and consistency, it would do wonders for me.”
Stories from Development Camp
With some fresh faces on the ice and behind the bench, Onyebuchi is feeling good about the group the Barracuda have as they head into the upcoming season.
As for one of those faces behind the bench, new Barracuda defense coach Louis Mass may have arrived to the WHL’s Everett Silvertips after Onyebuchi had been traded to the Kamloops Blazers, however the blueliner says they remember games where their teams faced off in juniors. The Barracuda defenseman is excited to get to work with Mass, saying that 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 what I’ve seen. He’s given me great tips to come home and work on for the summer and I’m excited to get things going with him.”
The second story Onyebuchi shared from development camp was a funny one.
“This happens to somebody every year. This year I got the short end of the stick,” said Onyebuchi about an unfortunate part of his travel to development camp in July.
Flying out to San Jose with his bags checked, including his hockey bag, and the unfortunate happened. His hockey bag did not arrive when Onyebuchi did and was not delivered to Sharks Ice until the day before he headed home to Manitoba.
“I was using Vlasic and Weatherby’s stuff,” noted Onyebuchi, “so that wasn’t ideal.”
That said, he feels that camp went well, adding that it was nice to see the guys again and having some good laughs with everybody.
Get to Know Montana Onyebuchi
Walk us through your gameday routine:
Head to the rink.
Get our morning skate in and a little stretch.
Nap for about an hour to an hour and a half, can’t go longer than that.
Order a smoothie and then order either rice and chicken or pasta. Chicken alfredo. I’m not too particular about what lunch I have. It depends on if I have a good game eating that, I’ll eat that the next game. Or if I had a good game eating that, I’ll eat that the next time. I just got to switch it up.
That’s the routine before going in.
Listen to music, obviously, on the way there.
At the rink, I kind of just hang out for a while, tape my stick, just listen to my music by myself just for a little bit and then I’ll take them off.
Have some Powerade and drink a lot of water, I’m drinking the whole time, and then just playing sewer until I have to get ready.
That’s pretty much it. Nothing crazy. No superstition.
Top-three music artists that need to be on your playlist
For me, I’d pick Polo G, number one. He’s a rap artist. I like Polo G. Then I would go Drake for sure, and then I’d do 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’ve got a hard shell, but underneath, they’re pretty soft and sweet.
What would be on your perfect pizza?
I’d just want a chicken barbeque with some bacon on it. Maybe alfredo sauce too, just so good.
If you could be elite in any other sport, what sport would you choose?
I think basketball. Honestly, I think basketball. I would say football because I enjoy playing football a lot more than I enjoy playing basketball, but football is a lot more dangerous, and you cannot play as long. I’d rather be a LeBron than a Mahomes. You’re just taking hits. I think basketball would just be cool, a laid-back sport. Or even golf would be nice, be a Tiger Woods.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
I think if I went to an ice cream shop and they had all the ice cream flavors and they had [bubble]gum, I’d choose it. It has little gumballs in it, and you can just chew on the gumballs after.
Favorite memory from last season:
I think a cool experience was when we went to the ranch. The whole team went out. Roy took us on a camping trip and we all just sat around and told personal stories and I think that’s when we bonded well. Outside of hockey, we just rode horses, played around, hung out on the beach, played spike ball, and football, and that was cool. That was one of my favorite memories for sure.
Thoughts on playing in Tech CU Arena:
I think it will be pretty sweet actually.
In the smaller arena, that atmosphere will be so much better. I think that will bring a lot of energy, just make the games more intense for sure.
To the fans:
We are excited to see you at the new arena, because the fans do make a big difference.