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'Jammer's Speech' key to Blackhawks' Cup Final run

by Brian Hedger /

CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Blackhawks can win the 2013 Stanley Cup, one of the lasting memories of their remarkable season will be "Jammer's Speech."

It happened inside the Blackhawks locker room at United Center the day after Chicago fell behind 3-1 in its Western Conference Semifinal against the rival Detroit Red Wings. After losing Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena, several players stepped forward to speak, including 38-year-old Jamal Mayers.

His words left a lasting impression on his younger teammates and might have given the Blackhawks the kick they needed to get things back in gear. Chicago stormed back to win the next three games against Detroit, then defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the Western Conference Final.

They open the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday here (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

"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. "That's kind of 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."

Mayers, whose nickname "Jammer" is more a reference to a position in roller derby than a play on his first name, talked about what might be his last chance to hoist the Cup. He also talked about the amazing things the Blackhawks had accomplished to that point, like their unprecedented 21-0-3 record to start the season and amassing 77 points in 48 games to win the Presidents' Trophy.

Mayers hasn't played a game in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and played 19 games in the regular season, but his speech the day after Game 4 of the conference semifinals may have helped the Blackhawks save their season. Mayers admitted it was difficult to give such a heartfelt speech to his teammates but said he doesn't regret sharing some of his veteran savvy.

"I think we have a special group here," Mayers said. "We've done some special things in the regular season. But I think that we hadn't really left everything on the ice. My message was pretty simple, that we had more to give. The last thing we want to have as a group is regret, because you never know if things will stay the same and if the team's going to stay together."

His teammates soaked up that speech, felt the message more than heard it, then did something about it in Game 5 against Detroit at United Center. The Blackhawks played with renewed vigor in that game, started hounding the puck again, and won 4-1.

They carried that energy into Game 6 in Detroit and had just enough left to edge the Red Wings in overtime of Game 7 in Chicago. The team's clutch play keyed the comeback, but Mayers' words certainly didn't hurt.

"Words coming from a guy like him and how much [we] respect him, I think they were great words and I think they paid off," teammate Nick Leddy said. "He's a part of this team and it doesn't matter who steps up and talks. I thought it was really cool of him to do that."

His inspirational words notwithstanding, Mayers pulls no punches when asked about being a healthy scratch throughout a prolonged playoff run.

"It's been tough; I'm not going lie to you," he said. "But I try to be as supportive as I can and stay ready. Anything can happen, and even now anything can happen throughout this Final. I think that I try to show that every day in practice and be supportive and help out in any way I can. You don't get to write your script, and this is exciting to be here. I'm going to enjoy it."

That kind of attitude is what makes scratching his name off the active roster each game such a tough task for Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Mayers started his playing career with 10 seasons for the St. Louis Blues, the first eight of which were with Quenneville behind the bench. The pair was reunited in Chicago when Mayers signed with the Blackhawks at the start of the 2011-12 season. So Quenneville doesn't take lightly the chore of scratching the veteran forward from his active lineup. But he does it knowing that the Mayers' contributions to the team aren't only on the ice.

"It's tough in the situation where you don't get to play, but at the same time he's in that locker room and we have him around as one of those guys for support," Quenneville said. "At the same time, he wants to play badly, and I know that's a tough part from where we sit, knowing that he's doing everything he can to get in the lineup. But he's still doing what he can to contribute in a positive way and being a great teammate."

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