Former Chicago Blackhawk Jamal Mayers spoke with ESPNChicago.com on Sunday about his new career as a analyst for the NHL Network, getting his name on the Stanley Cup, his respect for Jonathan Toews and more.
Q. How do you like being on television?
A. It’s a learning curve, you know. Having the producer in your ear, not playing, it’s a big adjustment. It’s been fun.
Q. Is it something you can see yourself doing for some time?
A. The last six years I’ve thought about what I wanted to do when I was done. I knew I wanted to stay in the game. Coaching isn’t necessarily for me. It’s just the time commitment. The hours a coach puts in is more than a player. If you look at the success a coach has, take a coach like coach [Kirk] Muller in Carolina. In the last 10 years, his journey as a coach, he’s had to move seven different times. I’ve got a young family. It’s not something I want to put them through. Doing TV allows me to stay in the game. Maybe I’ll get into scouting or the managerial side of things. Right now, this is my focus.
Q. I noticed you’ve created a hockey tip of the week on Twitter. Is that a way to pass on some of your hockey knowledge?
A. I think there’s nuisances of the game, the details of the game I had to pay attention to stay in the league. There’s no reason why I can’t pass this along. Little tips for young hockey players to help them, even older guys who are playing that helps them out. It’s a fun way to give back a little.
Q. Do you have a different perspective of the game now as an analyst instead of a player?
A. It’s a lot easier. It’s a lot easier to watching it on TV. I just think you just have a kind of respect for the guys and what it takes, the sacrifices they make to prepare, to play every other night, three or four nights a week, traveling all over North America.
That’s the one thing; the biggest adjustment for me is the pace of life. Playing is a fast pace. You practice. You play. You sleep. You travel somewhere else. You do it again. It’s just a fast pace. Real life isn’t like that. It’s a slower pace. It takes some adjusting, I’m not going to lie. I’ve been doing this for 21 years if you count college. That’s how I’ve been wired. It’s an adjustment.
I’ve enjoyed my time with my family. Being able to attend their school things, being more part of their life every day, it’s been good. I feel very lucky I got to play so long and very lucky I have this opportunity to do this TV. I realize there’s a lot of work that goes into this. I’m not afraid of work. I’m putting in the work. I’m trying to improve every time I do it. It’s like anything. You got to work at it.
Q. Did you consider playing this season?
A. Yeah, absolutely. I think I could have played to be honest with you. I think I can skate. I still have the competitiveness to play. That never left. It became less about me and more about our whole family. I had to make a decision. Let’s be honest, this opportunity to do TV may not be there next year. Was it worth moving my family again? It just wasn’t worth it. Not many guys say they went out on top. I’m very lucky I got to do that.
Q. What did it mean to you for the team to petition to get your name on the Stanley Cup?
A. It’s the story I’ll tell my grandkids. To me, I think the ultimate leader in hockey growing up was Mark Messier. I think Taser [Jonathan Toews] is on the path to where they talk about the leadership quality that he has. Over time, I don’t think there’s going to be a difference when you’re discussing a true leader whether it’s Messier or Jonathan Toews. Taser has a lot of hockey left in him. I think he took a huge step in the last few years. It’s amazing to me at the age of 25. It took me to my 30s to realize to have a bigger picture and not just think of yourself for the next game. You want your teammates to do well, but you’re focusing only on yourself. It takes guys longer to have a bigger picture. He has that. He knows he can’t win with just him and him and (Patrick Kane). He knows he has to have that group.
We have the same agent. It was told to me once that Taser went to Stan [Bowman] and said, ‘They don’t have to put Captain on the Cup if it means helps getting Jammer’s name on it. If that helps make room, I'll do it.’ I guess Stan’s response was, ‘You don’t have to do that. His name will be on the Cup.’ My point is – that’s something I’ll tell my grandkids. Can you believe how selfless this guy is and what a leader this guy was? It’s amazing.
Q. Do you think Toews should be captain for Team Canada?
A. I think why not. You can’t go wrong with him or Sidney Crosby. I would say that he should be the captain.
Q. Did it ever bother you that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville played Ben Smith instead of you in the Stanley Cup finals?
A. I would like to think that would be handled a little bit different if they had to that over again. Those feelings pale in comparison to winning the Stanley Cup and being a part of a group to do it. I have a pretty good perspective of my career and what kind of player I was. If I had finished my season with the Colorado Avalanche, not a single person would be interested in what Jamal Mayers is doing in retirement. I got to end my career playing on the best team in the world. I focus on my contributions and being a good teammate. I focus on all those things versus to thinking about what could have been and should have been.
Q. Aside from winning the Cup, are there any memories you’ll always keep from last year’s team?
A. Just that run. The run to start the season we had was unbelievable. I think what was really special about it was we were never satisfied. We thought if we don’t get better, other teams will get us. I think that will be one of my lasting memories. The run we had was amazing, coming back against Detroit and the whole journey for me.
Q. Do you hope to spend more time building Champagne and Caviar Bespoke during your retirement?
A. I’ve been able to put more energy and time into it. We were invited to participate in the Rush Women’s Board Fashion Show. There were 700 people there, and it was pretty cool to be a part of. We have some guys on the team who wear our stuff, and there are 18-20 players around the league. We would like to venture into the real world and the financial district in Chicago and Toronto. That’s where we’ll be able to sustain this and be able to grow.
Q. What’s impressed you about this year’s team?
A. What has impressed me is the fact they remain hungry. They’re playing like a hungry team. I think it was a genius move to bring back [Kris] Versteeg. Just to distribute the ice a little bit, and keep [Marian Hossa], Kane and Toews from playing too much. You want them fresh. You didn’t lose anyone from your roster. You get Versteeg, a first-line guy in Florida, and you’re going to have a third line with him, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. That’s a ridiculous third line. Their D, I think they’re the best D in the league. I comment on it all the time that they’re always clean coming out of their zone. The forwards don’t have to get the puck off the boards. I think [Corey Crawford] is better than he was later. He’s put himself in the conversation for Team Canada. I think he should be there. They’re firing all cylinders. It’s not easy to do after you win the Stanley Cup. Everyone is gunning for you. They’ve managed to stay up there.