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Chicago Blackhawks: Jamal Mayers, An Inside Look

By Gail Kauchak
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Today I would like to take a look at a former Chicago Blackhawks player who has recently become a member of their staff. Jamal Mayers was with the ‘Hawks when they won the Cup in 2013. He was a locker room and fan favorite, as well as a veteran leader on the team.  After spending a few years in broadcasting, the Blackhawks recently invited Mayers to be a Community Liaison with their organization. It’s good to see that he will be continuing his career with the Blackhawks. Let’s see what else we can learn about Mayers.

I must admit I knew very little about Jamal until I started researching for this article. For example, did you know that he was drafted by and spent most of his career (10 years) with the St. Louis Blues? Forget it, let’s talk about somebody else. Just kidding.

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At 41 years of age, Mayers has had a long and illustrious hockey career. He is from Toronto, Canada, and he played for Western Michigan University for four years (1992-96) before breaking into the NHL. He was drafted in 1993 (89th overall) by the St. Louis Blues. From there he played for the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Worcester IceCats, for three years (1996-99), before joining the St. Louis Blues from 1999-2008.

Unfortunately, Mayers suffered the fate that many bottom-six forwards deal with at the end of their careers. Leary of injury and/or low production, teams don’t want to make a long-term investment. So Mayers was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he spent two years (2008-10). Then he bounced to the Calgary Flames for one year (2009-10), and the San Jose Sharks for a year (2010-11).  In July of 2011, the Chicago Blackhawks signed Mayers to a 1-year contract for $500,000, and then a $600,000 contract for the next year.

Mayers didn’t light the world on fire as a Chicago Blackhawk, but he was known as a reliable physical presence on the ice. He is best remembered for the way he handled the Marian Hossa situation. Phoenix Coyotes winger Raffi Torres blindsided an unsuspecting Hossa during the 2012 playoffs. Hossa had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. He was later diagnosed with a concussion, and missed the remainder of the playoffs. Torres was initially suspended for 25 games, the longest suspension in NHL history.

Due to his lengthy suspension and the NHL schedule, the Blackhawks and Raffi Torres didn’t meet again until February of the following year. Everyone was wondering if the ‘Hawks were going to retaliate against this brutal hit against a star player. They got their answer soon enough.

Just seconds after Torres stepped onto the ice for his first shift, Mayers hopped over the boards and challenged Torres to a fight. No cheap shots; nothing under-handed. Just a fair and honest fight.  It was a perfect and classy way to say, “Hey, you don’t mess around with my teammates.” Jamal Mayers knew his role. He was able to give everyone a sense of vindication, so that we could all move on.

Mayers only played in 19 games for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2012-13 season, and he didn’t see any ice time at all during the playoffs that eventually led to a Stanley Cup. Yet he was a big leader in the locker room. When the ‘Hawks were down 3 games to 1 in the second round of the playoffs vs. Detroit, Mayers felt the need to give a speech to the team.

“I just spoke from the heart and I think — this is what I try to tell young guys — if you’re authentic about the team you can say whatever you want to the team, or you should say whatever you want to the team, because your heart’s in the right place, and all you really want to do is win.” Mayers said afterward. “That’s what I was talking about. At the end of the day, the guys on the ice did the job and came back, but I think, at the very least, maybe I gave them a little bit of perspective on what it’s like to be 38 and at the end of your career.”  (Courtesy of Kevin McGran, thestar.com)

When the Blackhawks were victorious and won the Cup in Game 6 against the Boston Bruins, captain Jonathan Toews made sure Mayers was the third person to hoist the Cup, after himself and another veteran player, Michal Handzus. They were also able to petition to get his name engraved on the Cup, even though he wasn’t technically eligible because he didn’t play in the playoffs.

Mayers did retire after the the 2012-13 season, but he continued to be involved in hockey by taking up a career in broadcasting. He became known for his great smile and crazy but stylish outfits. I can just imagine the producer saying, “Just smile, Jamal!  When in doubt, just smile!”

Not that he didn’t have some incredible things to say. Mayers was so recently removed from being a player, he had some very insightful comments about plays, and what was going through the players heads out on the ice. Here is a short clip of Mayers analyzing the Blackhawks Game 1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in the 2014 playoffs.

In late July of 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks announced that Mayers would join the front office as a Community Liaison. “We are proud to welcome Jamal back to the organization in this role. We envision him being a strong asset to the Blackhawks as we continue to focus on the growth of youth hockey. Jamal’s involvement in our local neighborhoods will help to further engrain the Blackhawks brand into our community,” said Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough.

Congratulations to Mayers for being able to continue his career around the sport that he loves! Not all former players are this lucky. But for such a classy and well-spoken man, it comes as no surprise.

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