Slater plays role well

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:01 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Jim Slater was the longest-serving member of the Atlanta Thrashers when they were uprooted in May and moved to Winnipeg.

And while the Jets centre is in a new home, he has a unique and roundabout connection to the Manitoba capital.

Slaters dad, Bill, was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1972 as a defensive end out of Western Michigan University. The Vikings coach that year just so happened to be Bud Grant, the man who guided the Blue Bombers to four Grey Cups in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

There is, however, one main reason why Jim Slater was standing in the Jets dressing room on Thursday morning instead of preparing to face the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium.

I never grew, Slater said Thursday after practice at MTS Centre. I worked out too early, and I didnt get my growth spurt. I love the physical aspect of hockey, obviously, and I think thats in my genes from my dad, for sure.

I played football growing up, and I had to make a decision on where I wanted to go.

Slater was a running back as a kid in Michigan, but he went to Michigan State on a hockey scholarship. He had 32 points in 37 games as a rookie for the Spartans, and the Thrashers plucked him with the 30th overall pick at the end of that season, in 2002.

After four solid seasons in East Lansing, Slater joined the Thrashers in 2005 and had 10 goals and 10 assists in his rookie campaign. Ever since hes been going through coaches, general managers and now franchise locations with the frequency of which some people change their underwear.

Ive been through a lot with the Atlanta organization, he said. Ive been through, I think, five coaches now and three GMs and one move. Its been a full six years, thats for sure.

The fact hes still with the organization despite all of that turnover says something about his skills, or perhaps more so his character. Hes never had a contract longer than two years, but hes entering his seventh season with the franchise. He was on his way to a career-best point total last season, but a concussion ended his season after just 36 games.

He is everything a coach would want in a fourth-line player, and hes one of the top faceoff men in the league.

Slater, who has failed to register a point in two pre-season games, will be in the lineup on Friday night when the Jets take on the Nashville Predators at MTS Centre in their exhibition finale.

A guy in my situation, you gotta prove yourself every year, Slater said.

Itd be nice to have a long-term contract, but its good to play here and hopefully I have a good season here and we can talk after.

And if that discussion is with the same coach and with the same general manager and in the same city all the better.


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