A few Saturdays back as a healthy scratch, Boston Bruins
defenseman Mike Mottau
peered down on the same ice surface where a date and event catapulted his four-year NCAA career into the record books, while creating a path to an NHL career.
For Mottau, the view and the path add up to a neatly packaged 360 degrees.
"I went to high school at (nearby) Thayer Academy and was then recruited by a bunch of the Hockey East schools," Mottau said. "Very interested in Boston University at the time, and it came down to them and Boston College. BC just felt more comfortable and an easier transition from Thayer."
That transition worked for Mottau and BC.
's NCAA career saw him score 157 points in 163 games. (Photo: Boston College)
"It all started there with Marty (Reasoner), he was the key recruit that really started the whole winning process there," Mottau said. "My freshman year we were still under .500 with a young team; sophomore year it happened quick going to the national final game here in Boston. It was quite a thrill to be a part of that turnaround and to see what has happened since."
That final game of the 1998 NCAA Tournament featured Marty Turco
and his Michigan Wolverines earning a 3-2 overtime win.
"That '98 loss was the most difficult of my career," Mottau said. "I was on the ice when the winner was scored, but it was a great run that year; we weren't expected to be there."
Nor did Mottau ever expect to be back "here," in Boston.
"It really is a treat to come back here with Boston and still feels a little surreal," said Mottau, who was acquired from the New York Islanders
on Feb. 27. "I take a few extra seconds before I put the jersey on every time being from the area and playing college hockey here, especially in this building."
Mottau led BC to another shot at an NCAA title in his senior season, when BC faced North Dakota in the 2000 championship game, which was played just an hour's drive down Interstate-95 in Providence, R.I.
"We were expected to win in '00 and that was a difficult (4-2) defeat as well," Mottau said. "If I could go back, I'd trade the Hobey for the national title. You set out to accomplish team goals, not individual ones."
The "Hobey" is the Hobey Baker Award, the NCAA's top individual award for the nation's best player.
"It was pretty emotional," Mottau said of winning the award in 2000, which capped a career that saw him score 157 points in 163 games. "We had just won a big game (Frozen Four semifinal, 4-2) against St. Lawrence, and they told me in the locker room after that I won it. Then I got to tell my parents. We went out for dinner right after and it was pretty exciting."
The Eagles finally would achieve their first title since 1948 in a 2001 rematch with the Sioux in Albany, N.Y.
League playoffs pave path to tournament
Bob Snow - NHL.com Correspondent
The five NCAA league-tournament championships will have automatic berths, while the rest of the field will be scrambling for one of the 11 at-large bids. READ MORE ›
"By those years, we had an older group when I left," Mottau said. "The upperclassmen like Brian (Gionta), Rob (Scuderi) and Scott (Clemmensen) were fantastic, and sophomores like Brooks Orpik
and (Krys) Kolanos and freshmen like Chuck Kobasew
. (Kolanos scored the overtime goal in a 3-2 win in the 2001 title game, assisted by Kobasew.)
If Thayer Academy was a straight shot to Boston College, Mottau's BC-to-NHL career has been quite the contrary. A 1997 seventh-round pick of the New York Rangers
, he made his NHL debut during the 2000-01 season. He split that season and the next two between the NHL and AHL with the Rangers and Calgary Flames
. He didn't play full-time in the NHL again, however, until 2007 with the New Jersey Devils
"I never reserved myself to being a minor leaguer," Mottau said. "Just prepare yourself every summer. It was tough and my window seemed to be closing, but you stay positive. My parents always instilled a great work ethic and I leaned on that those years."
Mottau spent three seasons in New Jersey, playing 76, 80, and 79 games, respectively -- the majority of his 300-plus-game NHL career.
What changed to earn him a full-time NHL job?
"They valued my hockey intellect and some of my strengths," Mottau said. "It was an easy and welcome fit for me. You can't teach experience, but their systems allowed a seamless transition; my strengths were reading the play, anticipation and good position. For me to add value to them, I had to do my job as simply as possible night in and night out. It's like here in Boston -- a good system is in place with support all over the ice. The Devils and Bruins have shown that the wave-after-wave is a recipe for success.
"Playing in front of Marty Brodeur was the nightly highlight of my Jersey career. It was a treat. And I learned on and off the ice there about professionalism. That's a credit to (GM) Lou Lamoriello for the structure he's put in place."
Mottau also has put a few structures of his own in place -- none of which he wants to employ just yet, however.
"I've done a number of internships while at the Devils and Islanders. Finance stuff with access to New York City and a lot of contacts through BC," he said. "I've studied for my financial-planning tests for certifications. That makes you more marketable for when you come out. I'm keeping options open while leaning toward that field."
For now, Mottau's field remains the frozen sheet.
"It's been a dream come true, really," he said. "I've valued this time and I don't want to let it go. When you're younger, you don't maybe grasp the concept that it could be gone the next day. For me now, it's in and out of the lineup, but I'm ready when they call my number. That's a maturation process thing when you get older. I see the kids playing now and while you are in it, maybe you don't appreciate it until you get a chance to look at it from the other side."
Next week, Mottau’s alma mater -- at No. 1 in the country -- is a lock for its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance since Mottau graduated with a degree in communications. The impact of his four years at BC is worn proudly.
"Jerry (York, coach) wanted us to be professionals -- clean cut," Mottau said. "He helps you become more of a mature person. That goes a lot further than people might think. I was 18 then; came out at 22. We still keep in touch."
His advice for this year's Eagles team?
"Stay in the present and enjoy the time right now," he said. "Take care of business now. It's a short window."