DETROIT -- Michigan forward Tyler Motte is looking forward to an ordinary Great Lakes Invitational.
That's because his previous GLI tournaments have been anything but.
As a freshman in 2013, Motte was in Europe trying out for Team USA in the World Junior Championship but had to return home.
"I was excited about representing my country at the World Juniors in Sweden but I got sick," Motte said in a recent phone interview. "But then I was able to play in the GLI, great to play in an outdoor game. That was a unique first experience. It was a unique opportunity to play the GLI outdoors, different from the normal experience.
"Fans love it at the Joe but to have it in a different location in the city and see hockey from a different aspect, it was not only unique for the fans but for the players as well. I think every team embraced the conditions, the weather and playing outside."
Motte remembers seeing the GLI as a kid growing up in St. Clair, Mich.
"I've been two or three years," Motte said. "It was always tough with my own hockey schedule. I remember Colorado College was here, I don't remember what year. It was my first year there. I remember the intensity and the speed of the game at the GLI."
Last year the GLI returned to Joe Louis Arena but Motte was not there as he joined teammates Zach Werenski, JT Compher and current Red Wing Dylan Larkin in the World Junior Championship.
That unfortunately meant that Motte missed a chance to play against his brother, Ferris State goaltender C.J.
"Obviously having the opportunity to play in the World Juniors, especially after missing the previous year in an unfortunate way, it was great opportunity to play there but I missed an opportunity to play against my brother," Motte said. "It was a unique and great opportunity to have, playing him in a little more competitive tournament rather than just a regular out-of-conference game. But I was happy with the opportunity I accepted."
Motte said playing with Larkin was something he'll always remember and he's enjoyed watching his former teammate's success.
"If any guy deserves it, he's one of them," Motte said. "The one thing that stands out about him is he can skate. We saw last year at the college level and at World Juniors that he is one of the best skaters on the ice. He's really molded his game on the ice around that and taken it level to level. He's also a great guy off the ice. He likes to keep it loose. He's a goofy kid who keeps it light-hearted. He knew when to cheer guys up but he was always prepared and worked hard. It was an honor to play with him, both in college and at World Juniors. We all still keep in touch with him. It's great to see him having the success he's having."
Larkin said he enjoyed his time playing with Motte as well.
"He's a good hockey player," Larkin said. "He competes every night and he does everything right. He battles, he blocks shots. I think him and Luke (Glendening) are the two guys that I've seen just being able to get in front of a puck and just block it. It's amazing. It just speaks to both of their characters. I think Tyler is great around the net, obviously having a great year, scoring a ton. I think it just speaks to how hard he works and you see it paying off."
Motte was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks and has spent a couple of training camps with them, including this past season.
"It was good to be back and see some familiar faces, get to know some people better," Motte said. "In camp I played the way I might have to, being more defensive-minded, killing penalties, not as concerned about offense. I can control my work ethic and that got noticed. It's good to see some people noticing. It was good getting back to Chicago, seeing players and prospects as well as the staff."
Although Motte could one day play against Larkin in the NHL, right now he's focused on the Wolverines.
This year will be the first time Motte has a regular GLI at Joe Louis Arena without any other distractions.
"It'll be less stressful as I won't be worrying about a lot of other things," Motte said. "Not that I'll be relaxed but I'll be able to focus on one thing, being prepared for the GLI at the Joe. It's something we're looking forward to. Michigan always circles this on the schedule and we'll be ready and looking to play at our best."
An additional reason Motte is looking forward to this year's tournament is the opportunity to try to win back-to-back titles.
"We always go in with the mindset of winning and this year we have an opportunity to defend that," Motte said. "A lot of players received an opportunity to shine and get experience in the tournament. Since there were a few of us at World Juniors, it gave some players a chance to experience different roles than they had been in. The team came together and a lot of people stepped up and played real well when needed."
The four-team tournament starts with a doubleheader matchup on Tuesday, Dec. 29 between Michigan State (Big Ten) and Michigan Tech (WCHA) at 3:30 p.m., and Northern Michigan (WCHA) and Michigan (Big Ten) at 7 p.m. The winners of those contests will advance to the championship game on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m., while the other two teams will meet in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. on the same day. All four games of the GLI will be televised live on FOX Sports Detroit.
Michigan enters the tournament as the defending champion, having defeated Michigan State, 2-1, to capture their record 16th MacInnes Cup in the 300th all-time meeting between the interstate rivals. The Wolverines’ lineup also features the most NHL draft picks (12) in the field.
Individual tickets for the 51st annual Great Lakes Invitational are on sale Monday, Oct. 26, at 10 a.m. Little Caesars Family 4-Packs are also available for the GLI. The offer features four tickets, four slices of pizza or hot dogs and four soft drinks, starting at $49 per day.
Individual tickets, along with the Little Caesars Family 4-Packs, can be purchased at the JLA Box Office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.