The many faces of Winnipeg Jets forward Jim Slater might confuse the average hockey fan. On one hand, he’s a gritty, hard-nosed, defensive-minded forward that grinds down opposing teams’ top lines. While on the other hand he regularly fosters his culinary skills, musicianship, while giving back to the community.
Perhaps an even more intriguing side of Jim Slater is his desire to visit space. “I’ve been talking to my parents and my girlfriend and stuff about those trips to outer space and that’s what I would spend my money on,” Slater commented recently. “I would rather spend $250,000 to go to outer space for 30 seconds than to have a brand new car. Not everybody gets to do it. I think it’s one of the most unbelievable things someone could do. I would definitely take a serious, hard look at it.”
For the record, Virgin Galactic begins commercial flights to space in 2013 from their Spaceport in New Mexico. Trips only cost $200,000.
Spaceflight might just be a distant dream for now, because Jim Slater is firmly planted in his role with the Winnipeg Jets. Head Coach Claude Noel heavily relies on Slater, along with his linemates Tanner Glass and Chris Thorburn to shut down the potent offensive powers of the Jets’ opponents.
“I just need to go out there and play solid defence against the other teams’ top lines and try to keep them off the scoreboard,” says Slater, explaining his role on the Jets. “Obviously penalty killing is a big part of that and taking face-offs at crucial times. It’s one of those roles that coach has given me. He’s really given me a chance, and I appreciate that chance and I really like being in that role. It’s a role I enjoy doing every night; I accept it, and I understand it.”
Being the longest-serving member of the franchise, Jim Slater brings a unique experience to the Jets. The Atlanta Thrashers selected Jim in the first round, 30th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After finishing his collegiate career at Michigan State University, Slater joined the Thrashers for his rookie season in 2005-2006. He’s played for no other franchise in the National Hockey League, serving six seasons in Atlanta, before the move to Winnipeg this year.
The Thrashers may have not been postseason regulars, but Slater did play in the only four playoff games in franchise history in 2007. In that Stanley Cup Playoff series, the Southeast Division champion Atlanta Thrashers were swept in four games by the sixth place New York Rangers. Even with a limited history, Slater’s experience provides him a unique perspective on what it takes to make the playoffs, but also what it takes to win in the Southeast division.
“It’s all about consistency,” describes Slater. “The games are so tight, and every point is so crucial. You can’t go on a slide here or there, you have to be pretty consistent throughout the whole season to make it in the playoffs, and you got to win your divisional games.
“That’s the biggest difference from year-to-year, just how consistent the top teams are every year; you don’t see them going on very many losing streaks.”
His leadership and experience is important to the Jets off the ice as well. “I’m not very vocal in the locker room, but I just try to keep the spirits up,” Jim acknowledges. There is a vital part to a team’s leadership that goes beyond what is normally imagined. “I’m a pretty positive guy and if things aren’t going the way we need them to go, I’m definitely that voice of reason.”
Spending six years making Atlanta his home, Slater certainly established some deep roots in that city, and he looks back on his time there warmly.
“Atlanta was a very good city to me. I made some good connections there. There are great people there, and some people that really love the game of hockey.”
The Thrashers were the only home team for Slater for six years of his career. He entered the league as a Thrasher, and gave all his efforts to that team for six years. Slater joins the ranks of many that will remember the Atlanta Thrashers fondly.
“You can blame the franchise for not winning and bringing fans in, but the fans that we did have were very loyal to us,” remembers Slater. “It was the first experience I had in the NHL and I thought it was a good organization to play for.”
However, the transition to Winnipeg hasn’t exactly been difficult. Jets fans have warmly embraced the team, with a special spot in their hearts for Slater and his ‘mates on the GST line.
Slater is a hard-working forward, playing on a blue-collar line, and that is a sure way to earn the adoration of the typical blue-collar, hard-working Winnipegger.
The ‘GST’ term for the line consisting of Tanner Glass, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn was originally coined by the fellows of the Illegal Curve Hockey Show on TSN Radio 1290. The term, and particularly the line it represents, has become ingrained with Jets fans, and regular ‘GST’ chants rain from the MTS Centre stands after a particularly grinding shift. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Slater and the rest of the line.
“Being up here in Winnipeg I can really see what the NHL is all about. Playing in a market like this is something I always wanted to do in my career, and it’s everything that I thought it would be.”
Off the ice, Jim is firmly dedicated to making himself and the community better. “I think it’s really important for guys on the team that people look up to so dearly in this city. I think it’s our obligation to go out there and give back to the fans that support us,” affirms Slater.
This season Slater has spearheaded the ‘Take A Jet To Work’ promotion. The idea formed when Slater had a desire to go and visit the hard-working Jets fans of Winnipeg. The visits bring some excitement to the daily grind for some fans, while it allows Slater to get out in the community and meet the fine folks of Winnipeg.
“It’s been great on a personal basis to understand where they come from, what they do, how they make their money and support their families,” explains Slater.
I think it's really important for guys on the team that people look up to us so dearly in this city. I think it's our obligation to go out there and give back to the fans that support us. - Jim Slater
Beyond his initiatives in the community, Jim likes to foster his own skills and interests. “I like to cook at home, so I go to the grocery markets around town. I’m starting to take piano lessons. I started trying to fill my time up with community service, just trying to get out in the community.”
From spaceflight to piano lessons to community service, the many faces of Jim Slater reveal him to be an intriguing, caring and hard-working person. He has endeared himself to the Jets fans with his play on the ice, but has cemented his role in the community with his dedication to the people of Winnipeg.
“It’s nice to get out there and do things that you don’t normally get to do on an everyday basis,” says Slater. “We have a big chance here with this team; everybody knows the Winnipeg Jets and you can do some things that you would never normally do in your life by fulfilling some roles here in the city that you won’t be able to do when you’re done playing hockey.”
Author: Eric Postma