At 38 years old, and after being a healthy scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks for most of the season and the entirety of the postseason, it sure seemed like Jamal Mayers hit his best-before date in 2013.
If he did, he could hardly have written a better ending to his career than the one he got: after 14 years in the league and 915 NHL games, Mayers finally got to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Like Ray Bourque, he could call it a career then and there, marking his last time on the ice by doing a long-awaited lap with Cup overhead. What a way to go.
Mayers knew this was his storybook ending.
"If I walk away," he told the Chicago Tribune in late June, "I can do it as a champion."
But it's not as easy as all that. It's only the perfect ending if you're ready to end it, and it didn't appear that Mayers was. "I feel like I can still skate, can still play," he said in the same interview.
I found this really compelling, because I got the sense that, while Mayers had fulfilled a lifelong dream by winning the Stanley Cup, doing so had almost complicated things for him at this late stage in his career. Had the Blackhawks fallen short, it would have been much easier to come back and keep playing in pursuit of the goal, like Daniel Alfredsson, say.
They didn't fall short, however. They won. And it made the offseason decision a tougher one. Sure, Mayers could still come back, but what was left to accomplish?
I played a lot of Nintendo games growing up. You'd beat the game, and then you'd get to that screen that would say "THE END. Start again?" I remember thinking, Who in their right mind would start again after all that?
The answer: someone addicted to the game.
In the end, Mayers decided he wasn't done. On Tuesday, his agent let it be known that he was hoping for a return.