St. Clair’s and Vancouver’s Motte deals with depression, anxiety
Tyler Motte on realizing he needed help with his depression: “Just getting to the point where I could sit down and talk to someone – that was a massive step.”
Hockey’s macho attitudes continue to soften when it comes to the issue of mental health.
First it was goalie Robin Lehner, who backstopped the Vegas Golden Knights to the Western Conference Final this past season. In 2018, he went public with his bipolar 1 disorder, ADHD and post-traumatic stress issues. And instead of being put down, he was listened to.
Now, it’s Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte, a St. Clair native who played at the National Team Development Program and the University of Michigan, who is sharing his story.
Motte, 25, recently talked to ESPN about being diagnosed with depression and anxiety in the summer of 2019, and how he has dealt with it.
Motte is an introvert by nature, but things had gotten past the point of his wanting to enjoy time by himself.
"It came down to my life feeling dull and boring," he said of how he felt shortly before seeking help for his problems.
Motte also said his mood fluctuated and he felt like few things in life could bring him enjoyment.
In fact, it was his girlfriend who first noticed what he was going through and suggested he seek psychological assistance.
"It was hard to hear at first," Motte said. "It's hard to hear that from someone you love and care about. But after a few conversations, I realized it was worth talking to someone. But just getting to the point where I could sit down and talk to someone – that was a massive step, a massive obstacle for me."
Motte made an appointment with a specialist, but things did not go smoothly at first.
"Honestly, the first experience wasn't great," he said. "I don't enjoy talking about myself generally, so to go in there and talk for an hour about things going on inside me that I don't understand, that's not an easy thing to do."
But he went back the next week and continued his visits. Motte was eventually diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
"Everyone wants to go in and lay out their problems and figure out how to get rid of them," he said. "Unfortunately, that's not how it works."
While it was a big step to seek treatment in the first place, Motte made an even a bigger step in September 2019. He returned to Vancouver for training camp and told team doctors of his mental issues and diagnosis and asked if there was someone he could see in Vancouver in order to continue the progress he had made during the summer in Michigan.
Motte trusted the Canucks.
He needed to create a support system for himself. Because that support system became so strong, he eventually realized that he could help others.
"It was an interesting feeling, to ask someone else for help," Motte said. "But I'm very glad I did.”
Team doctors recommended another therapist in Vancouver, whom Motte began seeing during this past season. He also began working more closely with the Canucks' mental skills coach. Both mental health professionals have helped him learn to engage with his inner self "and counteract some of the things that were going on," he said.
"I found that I could take some of the sting, some of the strain, some of the stress off my mental health by introducing some of those conversations into a hockey or performance conversation as well," Motte said. "So that was a really good step and a really good balance for me."
What made things even tougher for Motte – and makes it more impressive that he was able to confide in the Canucks – is that Vancouver is his third NHL franchise in his five-season professional career
Motte was drafted in the fourth round (121st overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, before he began his three-year stint at U-M. He signed with Chicago to begin his pro career in 2016, at the end of his junior year as a Wolverine.
Motte played 33 games with the Blackawks in 2016-17, splitting the season between them and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford Ice Hogs.
But he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 23, 2017, along with Artemi Panarin.
"It was a bit of a shock," Motte said. "It's an interesting feeling being a young player, trying to find your way in the league. Then you get the script flipped on you, and you have to go to a completely new situation and adjust."
He was on the move again on Feb. 26, 2018, when he was traded to the Canucks along with another player for former Red Wing Thomas Vanek.
"It's a little uneasy," Motte said. "I was just a piece of those trades a few times, but the feedback I was given from the teams I was heading to was always positive. Of course, it could just be a way to justify the trade, but you have to believe in it to an extent. You have to be open-minded to what is going on."
Dealing with all of that did not help what he was experiencing mentally.
But Motte has persevered. On the ice, he has become a key physical bottom-six forward and an outstanding penalty killer for Vancouver. He also has begun to speak out more publicly on his mental health issues.
He had a breakout playoffs in the Western Conference bubble in Edmonton with four goals in 17 games. But the Canucks were eliminated by Lehner and the Golden Knights in the second round in seven games.
Lehner stopped Motte in the handshake line after Game 7.
"He basically said, 'Keep doing what you're doing,' " Motte said. " 'It's helping. And you're not alone.' "