There are only a few hockey rivalries in the National Hockey League that are top notch dirty and stir up agitation in both the players and the fans when they face each other. Of those rivalries, there is nothing more exciting to Islanders fans than playing against one of the other two teams located in the greater metropolitan area: the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils.
And the Islanders most recent acquired defenseman Mike Mottau will be one of eight players in the history of the NHL to skate in a game for all three franchises.
I think it’s healthy. There’s such a loyal fan base to each team and there’s a lot of interest within the three teams. It’s just exciting because you can go to some other cities that don’t have as much passion that these three do and I’m just fortunate to be a part of those three organizations. - Mike Mottau
“I think it’s healthy,” Mottau said about the rivalry. “There’s such a loyal fan base to each team and there’s a lot of interest within the three teams. It’s just exciting because you can go to some other cities that don’t have as much passion that these three do and I’m just fortunate to be a part of those three organizations.”
Even though he’s already played for the other two pieces of the metro-area rivalry, the D-man is excited about coming to play for the Islanders.
“I think playing against the Islanders the last three years I’ve seen a lot of young talent with good speed. You need to be able to skate and move the puck,” Mottau said. “That’s what the Islanders have been able to do the last few years. It’s just exciting to be a part of something that could be something to grow with. There’s a lot of young guys here and I’m just looking to come fit in seamlessly and provide some leadership if I can.”
In the past three seasons, the 6’0, 197-pound blueliner has been an important part of the Devils lineup. In 79 games last season, Mottau notched a career high 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) and a +4 plus-minus rating. In three seasons, Mottau saw action in 235 regular season games for the Devils, tallying seven goals and 43 assists for 50 points and 137 penalty minutes.
“It’s a good organization,” Mottau said about the Devils. “There’s a lot of structure. It allowed me to play to play to my strengths and they valued my strengths. I learned how to make good decisions and I’m not the biggest guy, but good positioning with your stick and your body go a long way. I was able to earn a spot and become an NHL regular. It was a great three seasons for me.”
The blueliner was drafted by the Rangers in the seventh round (182 overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft and saw his first professional action for the organization during the 2000-01 regular season. After spending the majority of his time with the Rangers AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack, Mottau ended his professional career with the team when he was traded to the Calgary organization during the 2002-03 season.
After spending the next four seasons jumping between clubs in the American Hockey League, Mottau earned his chance to play in the big leagues full time after impressing the Devils coaching staff in his first season with the club’s AHL affiliate in 2006-07.
As a native of Quincy, Mass., the 32-year-old isn’t new to historic rivalries.
“That was really exciting growing up in the area and watching the Beanpot on TV and watching those schools, going to games,” Mottau said.
Growing up, the defenseman watched college hockey in Boston, where Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University and Harvard University have a long heated rivalry stirred up by the annual Beanpot Tournament founded during the 1952-53 season.
Fulfilling his childhood fantasy, Mottau went to Boston College, where he was able to participate in the heated rivalry. His senior year, Mottau received the Hoby Baker award, for being the top player in the NCAA college hockey. That same year, BC played BU in the Beanpot Tournament, losing 4-1.
Being a part of the rivalry was quite a thrill. My family and friends could come to games and see me play and I’ve made lifelong friends at BC. It was a good four years for me. I learned a lot, got a good education and I’m just really fortunate to have gone to such a really good school. I played for such a great coach. - Mike Mottau
“Being a part of the rivalry was quite a thrill,” Mottau said. “My family and friends could come to games and see me play and I’ve made lifelong friends at BC. It was a good four years for me. I learned a lot, got a good education and I’m just really fortunate to have gone to such a really good school. I played for such a great coach.”
Mottau even compared the college rivalry to that of the Islanders, Rangers, Devils rivalry.
“Well the BU and BC rivalry was quite a rivalry… The rivalry was really heated because you’re so young and there’s so much emotion involved, but the New York fan base there’s such a rivalry here that when you get thrown in to it, you just get right involved and it’s just as good,” said Mottau.
Mottau will experience a new aspect of the metro team rivalry the second game of the season, when the Islanders host the Rangers. Perhaps the most heated of the local rivalries, we know Mottau will be well prepared for what’s to come.