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Jets' Slater sensed a deal was near

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Jim Slater is one of the most-optimistic homo sapiens roaming this green earth, but there were days during the National Hockey League lockout when even he had his rose-coloured glasses dirtied.

That ended in the wee hours Sunday, when the NHL and NHPA finally came to an agreement that sends everybody involved in the game back to work.

"For the most part I was optimistic the whole time," said the Winnipeg Jets centre on Sunday. "Obviously, earlier in the process when you hear some traction has been made and then the next day nothing… there was a time we thought the deal was done and then (NHL commissioner) Gary (Bettman) came out and said there wasn’t.

"There were some negative days there. But being positive was the only way you could have done it. If you get down negatively it can affect you in other ways. I just kind of looked at it as going into the rink every day and preparing for this day that was hopefully coming soon.

"Obviously it’s here now and I feel good about the work and the process that I put into it."

Slater has been a regular participant in the workouts at MTS Iceplex. In the last week, sensing a deal was nearing, he and Olli Jokinen, Toby Enstrom and Brian Little -- along with local NHLers from other teams like Colin Wilson, Travis Zajac and Ryan Garbutt -- had cranked up their intensity.

Sunday was to be a day off the ice, but the end of the lockout will have everyone geared up to get back to work.

"I found out early this morning and reading through the e-mails it was like, ‘All right, here we go," said Slater. "My first instinct was, ‘I gotta get to the weight room to get a bike ride in or something.’ You want to be ready for the first of the season.

"It’s real now. It’s no more maybe I can sleep in an hour later and do my own thing. You can’t hit the snooze button five times. You’ve got to get back on your schedule. It’s serious. It’s a job now and I’m really looking forward to it."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

Slater's message to the fans:

"They’re very knowledgeable fans here in Winnipeg. Hopefully they understand the business side of the game a little bit more now. Obviously, it’s a little more painful when you are missing hockey games and you want to see the team play. The fans here are great and I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t come back and support our team. We hope they do because they are a big part of this city and this team and we love playing in front of them."

On what he would expect from Jet fans in the first game back:

"More of the same, if not more. These fans were great to us all of last year and we want to play in front of them. I still feel this is one of the best places I’ve ever played hockey and I hope they come back and cheer us on. Hopefully we can give them something to cheer about when it comes to playoff time.

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