A quick story that all hockey fans can appreciate…

3 young kids walk into the Islander team store ahead of me (No this isn’t a bad joke). After being told that the Islander Defenseman Mike Mottau is inside, they wait on the short line to meet him, without even knowing who he is, his condition/injury or anything about him.  I would venture the guess that they aren’t even closet fans, they’re just kids strolling through the mall who were just in the right place at the right time.  The line empties, and they all go up to the table not knowing who he is, or what to even say to him.  Mike is really nice and polite, and tries to strike up a conversation with them. He’s really welcoming and tries to interact with them, he asks all their names and proceeds to write out autographs for each one.  After picking up his signed picture, thats when one kid says to Mike (who’s now signing the next kids picture) “I’m totally gonna sell this on ebay, how much do you think its worth?”  All the Islander fans/staff in the room gasped and were appalled that someone would say such a rude thing.  For a second there was an awkward silence, but the truly noteworthy/awesome part about the whole situation was Mike’s reaction.  Chuckling to himself, Mike finishes signing the next kids picture, looked up at the kid who asked the question and proceeded to say “Well, I don’t think you’re gonna get much for it buddy, probably not even enough for lunch money, sorry.” all with a smile.  

Lesser, more selfish, conceited athletes would have taken offense to the situation, and would have probably caused a scene, but not Mike Mottau.  Thats why I was absolutely blown away by his reaction and handling of the situation, and being next online to go meet him, I was THAT much more excited to shake hands and grab a picture with such a stand up guy and killer hockey player.  That’s honestly when I became a full on Mike Mottau fan.  

Upon talking with him and asking how he felt about the team morale after a streak of 4 wins, I could tell that he missed the ice and playing with the team.  I felt horrible for him, such a good person, with great character, and amazing talent, stuck on crutches while his team goes on a 4 game tear.  You could tell from his responses that although he was happy that the teams playing good hockey, and that he was glad to meet fans, he WANTS to be back on the ice more than anything.  Talking face to face and eye to eye, I could tell that he was a true competitor, with a passionate love for the game that you just can’t fake, and although he’ll be better before the seasons over, he’ll still have to go through extensive rehab for his hip before he’ll be back playing.  I could understand how someone might second guess me on something like that, but the subtle details about how someone looks at you straight in the eye when they’re talking about something they love are impossible to fake.  The look in their eye, the smile they get when they talk about it, the way they light up just from the thought.  It’s just a shame, and honestly anytime I meet an Islander it’s a great time, but meeting Mike was a true treat and a lesson for life.  Last thing I said to him was “Get better and get back out on the ice soon, we miss you out there.” to which he smiled shook my hand and said “I’m gonna try, and really …thank you.”  

Anyways I wrote this out not because I’m an Islander fan but because a lot of hockey fans have been insulting the team lately, not knowing the true character of the players on the team, and not knowing all the good they’ve been doing locally in the community.  There’s more to this team than their record, their plays on the ice and their recent infractions. They’re a great group of guys and I can honestly say that since I’ve met ¾ of them.  I just think that even though you might dislike their actions during one game throughout the year, theres no reason to bag on the team, insult and send death threats to players or even worse take it out on fellow hockey fans.  This is a really young team, with a lot of promise, passion, energy and talent just waiting to be tapped, they’ve had a tough run and pretty much everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.  It’s been another difficult season as a fan but I’m not complaining, I’m happy that this team is playing hard and showing that they care about making the most of a less than stellar season.  If you can’t respect that drive and passion or understand how hard injuries have hurt this team and how little respect the smaller, more vulnerable players get when they’re taking shots on the boards, then you need to see the league from a different viewpoint.  I doubt this will open any eyes or change any perspectives, but atleast know that Mike Mottau isn’t the only stand up guy on this team.  

NOTE: This photo was taken during the situation I spoke about above, it was posted because Mike’s a great guy and an amazing hockey player and he deserves that people know that about him.