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.