February 27, 2012

Mass. native, BC alum Mottau relishing homecoming

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON -- It was a call he never saw coming. When it came and he tried to pass the big news onto his wife, she thought it was too good to be true. 

The phrase “a dream come true” gets bandied about often, but that’s exactly what happened to Mike Mottau on Monday afternoon, as the Avon, Mass., native learned he’d been traded by the Islanders to his hometown Bruins.

“I was actually in a car on the way to Walter Reed Hospital [in Washington DC] to visit some wounded warriors and I got a call from coach [Jack] Capuano and he said I was traded to Boston,” Mottau said. “I was excited. It was a lot of different emotions (going) through your head right away. I was extremely excited mostly and my first phone call was to my wife and she didn’t believe me for a bit.”

After solidifying himself as a full-time NHL player with the Devils, Mottau signed as a free agent with New York in 2010. Unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan, as the 2000 Hobey Baker Award winner was beset by injuries for most of his tenure, including a devastating eye injury early on in his first year with the club.

The former BC Eagle recently returned from a concussion that sidelined him for nearly two months.

“It was really difficult. There was really no definitive timetable on those,” Mottau said of his concussion recovery. “With any other injury to a body part, you can have a timetable and can battle through some pain, whatever it is. But with this, it gets frustrating. It’s really a mental grind as well.

“Sometimes you can get in your own way mentally and start to feel a lot better and get back on the ice, then the excitement of competing again was great when I got back in the game, but it was a difficult time. There was a lot of media attention to concussions, it’s a little bit hypersensitive maybe, but I was definitely banged up there for a couple of weeks.”

Now fully recovered, Mottau hopes to contribute in any way possible to the Bruins’ stretch drive and eventual playoff run.

“I would say just a steady, two-way defenseman who can make a good outlet pass, adding value at some level here,” the defenseman said when asked to describe his style. “Something I can duplicate over and over again is making a good outlet pass, and making good reads relying on my hockey intellect and reading plays and anticipating. It’s not sometimes the showiest game that I play, but as far as adding value, that’s what I’m looking to do on whatever level that I’m needed.”

Playing at the Garden on a regular basis promises to be pretty surreal for the Hockey East alum.

“Well, I mean I’ll definitely embrace it only because it’s such a great hockey town,” Mottau said when asked if his days at Boston College will help him embrace the hockey community.

“Growing up there and having the experience of playing close to home in college and playing in some big games in the Garden – and having family and friends to be in the stands each night will be quite a thrill for me. Some people might not be able to handle that type of excitement or pressure, but I’m definitely going to embrace it.”

Mottau said his agent had talks with the Bruins when he became a free agent two years ago. The 33-year-old never thought such an opportunity would come.

“You know what, I really did,” Mottau said of thinking it was too late in his career to ever find his way to Boston. “To be honest, I just stay in the present and I let things happen as they may and I’m grateful for the trade and fortunate because I’m so familiar with being from the area. My family is extremely excited. You hope that it’s going to be a good fit and I can produce whatever they need me to do.”

Coach Claude Julien will be happy to know that Mottau’s willingness to contribute to the Black and Gold knows no bounds.

“I always said I’d take a puck in the teeth for the Bruins,” Mottau said of fulfilling his lifelong dream to play for Boston. “Now I have a chance to do that.”