Jim Slater is proud to be representing his country and home state of Michigan at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.
However, the former NHL player and standout at Michigan State University nearly retired from hockey before the opportunity arose. He was ready to return home from Europe and spend more time with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, but he couldn't pass up the chance at playing on the world stage.
"I've been playing in Europe for the last three years ... being away from my daughter is tough ... and I came home this summer and planned on spending more time with her. And then this whole situation arose and my wife was like, 'You gotta go for it and give yourself an opportunity.' That's what I did and it's worked out, and it's definitely been worth it," said Slater.
Slater, 35, is from Lapeer, Mich. He played four years at Michigan State and was drafted 30th overall in 2002 by the Atlanta Thrashers. He played in 584 NHL games before heading to play in the Swiss pro league. Retiring from hockey seemed like the logical next step for him and his family, but he couldn't resist this moment.
"I always told myself that if this opportunity came I was going to try. And if it didn't come I was more than ready to be home with my daughter and wife and move on from my playing career," he said.
Slater said he has a lot of people to thank for getting him to this point.
"This is definitely a family accomplishment. My brothers and sisters had to sacrifice a lot. My parents obviously had to sacrifice a lot. I got a lot of support from them, and being able to share this experience with them means a lot. With my wife, my 3-year-old daughter ... and just everyone that had a role in my career and my life to get me to this point, it's really fantastic to be able to share this with them," said Slater.
He wants to make everyone back home in Michigan proud.
"Keep support us, cheering for us, we're going to try to make you all proud," he said.
The state of Michigan will be represented by 14 athletes including:
- Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani -- Event: Ice Dance
- Madison Chock and Evan Bates -- Event: Ice Dance
- Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue -- Event: Ice Dance
- Jessica Kooreman -- Event: Short Track Speed Skating -- 1,000m race and 1,500 meter race
- Megan Keller -- Event: Defender for Women's Ice Hockey
- James Wisniewski -- Event: Defender for Men's Hockey
- Chad Billins -- Event: Defender for Men's Hockey Team
- Jim Slater -- Event: Forward for Men's Hockey Team
- Kyle Mack -- Event: Snowboarding Slopestyle and Big Air
- Ryan Pivirotto -- Event: Short Track Speed Skating
- Nick Baumgartner -- Event: Snowboardcross
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