Jamal Mayers has played with many great leaders in his long NHL career, but he believes not one of them surpasses Jonathan Toews.
Mayers was still on cloud nine Thursday, three days after Toews made sure the veteran was one of the first Blackhawks to get the Stanley Cup.
"Actually, Johnny gave me the heads-up that morning if we won that would be the case," Mayers said "I got pretty choked up just thinking about it and had to skate away.
"The fact I didn't play any games in the playoffs, he still felt it was important to do that. That's just a testament to the type of leader he is and person to have the foresight to have that perspective. He's turned into an unbelievable leader."
Mayers even compared Toews to Mark Messier, who has the NHL leadership trophy named after him.
"Everyone knows what he does on the ice, but his conscience and ability to see all pieces of the pie are what separate him at such a young age," Mayers said of Toews. "He reminds me of what people used to say about Messier. He parallels a lot of those qualities you hear about Mark."
Toews first gave the Cup to Michal Handzus, then Mayers and then Michal Rozsival.
"There's something you learn every game, every year as a captain that you learn how the team works, and especially when you have veterans like Mayers around and Handzus and guys like that," Toews said. "As I've gone along as a captain you understand more of what your job is. It all matters, it all adds up. You definitely learn a lot from being around guys like that."
Handzus had a similar conversation with Toews at the Monday morning skate in Boston. So did Marian Hossa in 2010, the morning of Game 6 in Philadelphia, when Toews told him he would be getting the Cup first if the Hawks won.
"Johnny came to me in the morning skate and told me that if we win he'll hand it to me first," Handzus said. "I got nervous right away and thought, 'That would be awesome, let's win right now.'
"That shows the leadership of the guys, the core. They've been here, won it in 2010. They felt it wasn't about them -- it was about the guys who never won it before. That shows why we won it. The guys didn't care about themselves. They cared about other guys. The whole team cared about each other, and that's how you get through the tough moments in the playoffs."
Mayers sounded like a guy ready to give some serious consideration to retirement at age 38.
"I realize where I'm at in my career and have reached the ultimate," Mayers said. "Climbing the mountain and seeing over the top may have changed things a little bit for me, but that will play itself out in the next couple of weeks.
"If I do walk away, I can do that as a champion. Not many can say that."