Exhausted Mayers happy to see lockout's end

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Exhausted Mayers happy to see lockout's end

Jamal Mayers was feeling all the emotions of the lockouts end on Sunday: Joy knowing that hockey will return to action soon enough, relief that at least some of the season was salvaged and exhaustion after participating in those marathon negotiating sessions in New York this weekend.

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I joked a few times that it was like getting a crash-course MBA, said the Blackhawks forward, who landed back in Chicago after a long and ultimately deal-making weekend in New York. It was definitely an unbelievable experience, something Ill never forget. There are so many different components and elements that are interrelated. I learned a lot on how these things work.

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Both sides finally did get it to work this weekend in New York, as they agreed on a framework for a new collective bargaining agreement in the wee hours of Sunday morning. It wasnt easy. A 13-hour day meeting with a mediator on Friday, then a 16-hour day of small and big meetings that culminated in the late-night (make that early-morning) deal.

Mayers, talking about that final day, said it was impossible to describe the process to anyone who wasnt there.

We decided to go into small-group meetings, created some momentum and probably went back and forth on different things seven or eight times over the course of (Saturday) night and (Sunday) morning, said Mayers, who also participated in the ownerplayer meetings in December. The reality was, we only had a few issues remaining, although they were very important.

Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who was logging serious hours going between the two parties on Friday and meeting with them together on SaturdaySunday has been praised for his part in getting this done. Mayers said Beckenbaugh deserves every bit of it.

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I dont think we couldve gotten the deal done, quite frankly, without him, Mayers said. With such few major issues remaining, he was able to pull out of each side what was there and make a determination on how to proceed. His approach worked and we were able to give on some things on both sides and come to an agreement.

Now that the deal is just about done, both sides focus on the tasks at hand: getting back to hockey, and getting back into the fans good graces.

Obviously were nothing without the fans, and obviously theyre hurt, Mayers said. We have the most passionate fans out there. My hope is they come back and support us, and our job is to have a good product on the ice. The reality is, its going to be some unbelievable hockey. Whether its 48 or 50 games, its going to be a sprint to get to the playoffs. The hockeys going to be intense and exciting; guys are ready and have been skating here all along preparing for this. Im happy its not for naught and we get to do what we love for the fans.

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Its been a draining few months of a lockout and it was one intense negotiating weekend in New York. For Mayers, it was an interesting experience. And it finally led to a much-needed conclusion.

I was glad I was a part of it and its something Ill carry with me after Im done playing, Mayers said. The guys there really helped. We didnt always agree, but everyone was very respectful and gave their opinion. Its tough when youre trying to represent 700 guys. Im exhausted, but Im definitely glad I was part of the process.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

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DENVER – Well, that was a wild one, wasn’t it?

We’ll spare you the gory-to-glorious details (most of which are in the game story, anyway). So instead, let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 6-4 victory over Colorado.

1. Great night for the rookies. The Blackhawks’ newest players were their most prolific players on Tuesday night. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals. Tanner Kero did too, and added an assist. Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. All of these experiences are great learning curves for the Blackhawks’ youth, and coach Joel Quenneville likes how they’re progressing, not just with scoring but with their overall games. “That’s the part that’ll make them better players and us a better team is playing the right way defensively, being responsible, putting the puck in good areas and going hard to the net.”

2. Top line still too quiet. Line changes were made but the results remained the same, especially for the Blackhawks’ top trio. Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik were up there with Jonathan Toews in this one, but still nada. The three had a combined three shots for the game. Many of you have asked if Toews is still dealing with that back injury. On Tuesday morning he said, “no, it’s been really good, actually.” Still, there’s something up with a top line that, regardless of combination, just can’t get anything going.

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3. Terrible second period. The Blackhawks came out of the first in great shape and with a 2-1 lead. But things got messy in the second period. Be it the inability to clear or get the puck deep in the Avs’ zone, the Blackhawks made mistakes. The Avs capitalized, scoring three goals in the second including two in a 63-second span. Outside of Tanner Kero’s goal, the Blackhawks had a forgettable second period. The Avalanche outscored them 3-1 and outshot them 8-4 in the second.

4. Faceoffs lost. The Blackhawks did not do well in this department, winning just 23 percent of their faceoffs. It didn’t cost them the game but they certainly need better nights than they got on Tuesday.

5. Corey Crawford gets through it. Crawford was stellar prior to his appendectomy but hasn’t been at that level since. Quenneville said he considered pulling Crawford during this one but decided to keep him in. Quenneville’s still happy with his goaltending – again, the Blackhawks aren’t where they are right now without it this season. But he said Crawford could be better than he was on Tuesday.