Jamal Mayers saw his name engraved on the Stanley Cup at the Chicago Blackhawks’ ring ceremony in October and again when they visited White House in early November. It was a shiny reminder of what ended up being his final NHL season, and how it couldn’t have ended any better.
“It allowed me closure,” said Mayers, who officially announced his retirement on Friday. “Chasing something since you were five years old, it’s pretty crazy to have it come true.”
Mayers officially called it a day on Friday, wrapping up a 14-year NHL career that culminated with his hoisting that Cup in June. For Mayers, who was a vocal leader for the Blackhawks during their Cup run, Friday was a chance to look back at everything: from his finish with the Blackhawks to his long tenure with the St. Blues, and the years of hard work that led to the NHL.
“No one would’ve believed I’d play in the NHL as long as I have when I was 12, 13, 14 years old,” he said. “Coming from a single-parent home to living in the city and not having much. It’s just proof-positive that it’s possible and it’s really remarkable, and I feel very lucky.”
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During last season’s lockout, Mayers was a big part of the NHLPA’s side of the negotiations. He was in the room when the PA and league finally came to an agreement in the wee morning hours of Jan. 6. Mayers appreciated being part of the process, not just for the final outcome but also in helping younger players work through it all.
“When I served in most roles, it was about helping younger guys understand what the issues were and helping them become involved and engaged. I’m proud I helped guys like (Brad) Boyes, (Matt) Stajan, even (Jonathan) Toews to a certain degree, get involved on the PA side. Inevitably, it’s going to be their PA, their issues. As much as they like to focus on playing game, they can’t ignore the business aspect. It would be a shame if they had their heads in the sand.”
Considering his previous work with the NHLPA, Mayers could have a future with it, too.
“I haven’t closed the door being a part to NHLPA. I can add value to what their goals are,” he said. “I also have aspirations on the management side of hockey. The key is reaching out to people, not to leave the game. Staying in the game, staying current and knowing the issues, it allows you to branch out.”
Now Mayers is adjusting to being on the media side of things. He’s doing television for the NHL Network and Fox Sports Midwest and co-hosts a weekly radio show out of St. Louis, where he lives with his wife Natalie and their three children.
“I’m just trying to learn the craft, and as you know it’s all about practice: the more hits you get the more times you do it, the better you’re going to get,” Mayers said of TV. “You’re trying to work as often as you can, and you take it seriously. It’s a work in progress.”
Mayers has officially closed the door on the playing part of his NHL career. It was a great ride, one that ended in Chicago, and ended with his name on a Cup.
“I’ll show my kids and my grandkids,” he said. “It’s hard to wrap your brain around it. When I found out my name was going to be on it, that’s the first thing I thought of: just the legacy of what it means, to look at that when you’re old and gray. It’s a fitting time to end (my career), so I’m very fortunate that’s the way it ended.”