The life of an NHL hockey player looks comfortable and gratifying on the outside. It is easy for the fans to assume that playing in one of the world’s most competitive professional leagues is an exciting experience, and cheering on the team during a game helps to make the game more worthwhile. Many players appear to enjoy their jobs and others embrace the feeling of winning personal accolades and the Stanley Cup, but there are some players who feel pressured to play well in order to avoid heavy criticism. This can take an unwanted mental toll.
Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte admits that he has struggled with his mental health over the last year. The 25-year-old, who is in his third season with the team, has spoken to the media about being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, having initially told the team’s doctors that he had not been feeling well. Motte was open to willingly talk about his mental health on a wider platform and became an ambassador for Hockey Talks, the Canucks’ mental health awareness program. The program was set up after the death of Rick Rypien, a former Canuck who lost his long battle with depression in 2011.
Motte has described how his career went from major highs to unexpected lows, discussing how he felt and why he began to doubt himself. Canucks fans and the NHL have supported him during his battle, and Hockey Talks aims to make others aware of the stigma surrounding mental health and how playing hockey can either help or harm a player’s mindset.
Motte’s Career Went Through a Sudden Downturn
Motte achieved a special dream when he was 18 years old. The St. Clair, Michigan-native committed to the University of Michigan, thus playing NCAA hockey for his home state. He also entered the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks, who offered him an entry-level contract. His final season as a Michigan Wolverine was enough to make Chicago take notice, as he had 56 points (32 goals, 24 assists) in 38 games. He ranked number two in the country in goal scoring, and was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award.
Motte spent one season with the Chicago Blackhawks before he was trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he struggled to score points and was sent to the AHL. Vancouver signed him during the 2017-18 season. Motte said that he felt “lower and lower” during his second professional season because of his lack of solid direction in his career and that he could not find the energy to go to the rink. His girlfriend suggested that he seek help, and he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Motte did not talk about the diagnosis publicly until January 2020.
Going through three trades in one season placed a great deal of adversity on Motte’s hockey career, leaving him feeling uncertain about his future and frustrated that he could not do enough to impress his coaches. The Canucks gave Motte a new home and a platform to talk about his feelings. He has become one of many Canucks to support the Hockey Talks initiative, and as the COVID-19 pandemic remains present, he has encouraged fans to take care of each other during tough times.
Motte Thanks Canucks for Supporting Him
There is an assumption that hockey players are tough on the ice, but Motte is one of many NHL players to challenge this belief. He has listened to other athletes’ stories, which have helped him to understand why players may feel different in response to certain situations. Motte intends to take this knowledge and apply it to the team’s mental health programs and to donate to Hockey Talks.
Motte is giving back to the Canucks as a way of appreciation for their help over the last two years, especially since they have allowed him to promote mental health awareness programs. He has taken major strides to improve his psychological state, and the hockey world has reacted well to his progress. By talking about mental health on a non-judgmental platform, Motte and many other hockey players have shown that there is no shame in admitting that something is wrong.
James is a graduate of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), where he studied Broadcasting in the hope of becoming a sports reporter. He coincided his studies with a part-time job at Rogers Place and saw many memorable moments for the Edmonton Oilers.
James currently runs his own YouTube channel and its website, both called From The Anvil. He post regular content about West Ham United – his favourite soccer team – and has appeared on many soccer podcasts. He covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.