No one has a clue about when the National Hockey League lockout will end. But Jim Slater knows this: if he’s going to skate and workout while waiting, he might as well do it alongside some teammates.
The Winnipeg Jet centre made his first appearance at MTS Iceplex today and was joined by Olli Jokinen, Alex Burmistrov, Mark Stuart, Antti Miettinen, Derek Meech, Ivan Telegin, Jason Gregoire and Kevin Clark, among others.
"I’m paying on my condo now and so I might as well live in it," said Slater with a chuckle after today’s on-ice session. "It’s a great city. I like being here, I like the people so that’s my plan for the rest of the time."
Slater is coming off what was an important year for him. He missed the second half of the 2010-11 season in Atlanta with post-concussion symptoms, but was solid in his first year in Winnipeg. Centering the popular ‘GST’ line along with Tanner Glass and Chris Thorburn, Slater posted career-high totals in goals (13) and points (21), suited up for the United States at the World Hockey Championships and this spring signed a new three-year $4.8 million deal with the Jets.
"It’s good to be out there," said Slater. "Obviously meeting some of the new guys it was nice to get the small talk out of the way. It’s great to be back and be back with your teammates again. The fans are definitely expecting more, we’re expecting more of our team. We had some great additions this year that Chevy (GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) made and I’d like to see them get on the ice and put it all together. When you see names like that coming here to Winnipeg it definitely gives you a boost. Playing against Jokinen and Ponikarovsky for years now… they’re big guys, they’re tough guys to play against, they’re very skilled. It’s fun to have those guys on your side."
As for the zillion dollar question – when will the lockout end? – Slater is like every other hockey type watching, waiting and keeping his fingers crossed.
"I don’t think anybody (has a sense for when it will end)," Slater said. "I wish we did. We have our points we want to make, they have their points and somewhere along the way we’ve got to meet in the middle and figure them out. Hopefully, it’s sooner rather than later."