Twenty years ago, the National Hockey League took a multi-week break so that professionals could play in the Olympic Games for the first time ever. This year, though, the league decided to stop giving pros a break so they could play. That decision created opportunities for players who might otherwise never make an Olympic roster.
Under the new system, one of the players chosen to compete this year for Team USA is former MSU star Jim Slater.
The center from Lapeer, Michigan played for the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets NHL franchise before spending the last two seasons playing professionally in Switzerland. That’s where WKAR’s Scott Pohl catches up with Jim Slater for a FaceTime conversation about his shot at Olympic glory.
Slater's wife and daughter are in the U.S., and he'd thought about retiring, but he decided to keep playing when he saw a chance to make the Olympic squad. "I'm a big hockey fan. You want to see the best in the world go against each other," says Slater. "I was a little disappointed in that, but it also opened up this door for me and gave me a chance. After that, my mind was set that I was going to play another year and try to make this Olympic team."
Slater thinks Team USA has as good a chance as anybody at the gold medal. The team will meet in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 9, practice begins Feb. 10, and the preliminary round of games begins Feb. 14.