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Former Spartan ice hockey players represent MSU in PyeongChang

February 22, 2018
<p>Freshman forward Jim Slater goes up against U-M junior center Mike Cammalleri during an Oct. 6, 2001 game at Spartan Stadium. The game was tied 3-3. (State News File Photo)</p>

Freshman forward Jim Slater goes up against U-M junior center Mike Cammalleri during an Oct. 6, 2001 game at Spartan Stadium. The game was tied 3-3. (State News File Photo)

PyeongChang is currently the center of the world, hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics and showcasing some of the best talent in winter sports the world has to offer.

As the 2018 Winter Olympics continues, Team USA has a Spartan competing on the men’s ice hockey team for his first-ever Olympic games in PyeongChang.

Current USA forward and former MSU ice hockey teammate Jim Slater made his Olympic debut on Feb. 14 in the team’s first loss of the games to Slovenia in a 3-2 defeat in overtime. 

“I feel very honored and privileged to be representing Team USA and MSU in this year’s Olympics,” Slater said in an email. “Anytime you can represent Team USA anywhere, it’s the utmost respect and privilege.”

He scored his first goal of the Olympics Feb. 20 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic, which effectively ended Team USA’s chances of playing for a medal. 

Slater played in East Lansing from 2001-05, and played in the NHL for 10 years — six with Atlanta Thrashers and four with the Winnipeg Jets. He’s currently playing for HC Fribourg-Gottéron in Switzerland.

Before the Olympics, the 35-year-old represented Team USA in 2002 for the U.S. National Junior Team and in 2006 and 2012 for the Men’s National Team. 

To Slater, playing in the Olympics brings different feelings compared to the other international tournaments he has played in.

“I played for USA for many different tournaments, but knowing that this was the Olympics, pretty much pinnacle moment of any athlete’s career, was a real special thing for not only me, but my family,” Slater said in an email. “It was a family accomplishment to get to this point in my career. Seeing it all come to a point where I’m in the Olympics is very, very special.” 

When trying out for the team, Slater put up pieces of paper on the walls in his home with the words such as "Team USA" and "making the Olympics" written on it, as first told in The Athletic. He has also done this when he made his debut in the NHL and throughout college. 

He first started putting the signs up at 15 years old, after he met a sports psychologist who taught him in the act of positive affirmations. Ever since then, he continued the pattern throughout his collegiate career and into the Olympics.

“Seeing things and believing things, it's worked out well for me and my career,” Slater said. “Any place you can have something positive that you see can only make you better. You just see your goals everywhere you look is a big thing. You know what you are doing and where you want to get to.”

In four years and 157 games wearing the Spartan jersey, he scored 64 goals and 108 assists. During his junior and senior year, he was named captain of the team and he was named a Hobey Baker Finalist in 2005. 

Slater still keeps in touch with his MSU roots, as he lives in Michigan with his wife and child while going back and forth to play hockey in Europe. He stays close to campus because of how well the school treat their alumni and seeing familiar faces around town.

“I still live in East Lansing, and as long as I'm playing hockey, I’ll keep coming back,” Slater said. “They are so good to the alumni. They let you use all the facilities when you need it. I just love being around campus. MSU is a special place for me and my family. Just being able to be around a big college program is something special. We really enjoy our time there.”

Growing up in Lapeer, Michigan, Slater said he always dreamed of going to MSU and playing as a Spartan in the green and white. 

Even being out of the program for 13 years now, he still holds all the memories he shared throughout his four years at MSU.

“Being a Spartan means a lot. ... It’s a special feeling when somebody asks you, 'Where did you play college hockey?' and you can say, 'Michigan State.' They immediately know it was a special place and it’s a special program with a great history and tradition,” Slater said. “To be a part of that green and white is something that I’ll always have.”

Also competing in the Olympics this year is former Spartan Brock Radunske, who is a member of the Korean hockey team. Radunske could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

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