HELSINKI, Finland -- When it comes to rooting for the Red, White and Blue here in Helsinki, Bill and Diane Slater are about as dedicated as can be.
The parents of Team USA forward Jim, the Slaters journeyed from their home in Lapeer, Mich., to vociferously cheer on their son and his U.S. teammates – and not for just one or two games, but for the duration of the tournament.
“We’ve seen them all – we wanted to make it here for the first game against France and heck, the win against the Canadians was the best of them all,” said Bill Slater. “We wouldn’t have missed that one for anything.”
“We wear our USA shirts, hats and scarves and we’re up there cheering ‘go Red, White and Blue’ and really supporting the team,” said Diane, who celebrated a birthday during her time here in Finland.
Ten years ago, Jim made his debut for Team USA at the 2002 IIHF World Junior Championship – the rugged forward notched a goal and four assists during seven games in the Czech Republic. In 2006, he played on his first U.S. Men’s National Team at the IIHF Men’s World Championship in Latvia.
“I know Jim jumped at the chance to play at the World Juniors. This year was a contract year and he’s a free agent, but he really wanted to take the opportunity once again play for Team USA,” said Bill.
It has been the perfect chance for the dedicated parents to catch up with their son, who has now played a total of seven NHL seasons – six for the Atlanta Thrashers and this past year for the Winnipeg Jets.
“This is real quality time for us because with four kids, we don’t get to see that much of Jim,” said Bill. “This has been an excellent opportunity.”
Like his son, Bill was also a professional athlete, having played defensive line for the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. He has liked what he has seen from the U.S. team thus far: “I think you really see the heart and the team play. It doesn’t seem like there are any magnified stars. I’m impressed with the team. They’re all playing and meshing together.”
As one of the more experienced players on the team, Jim, who has a goal and two assists while averaging 15:45 of ice-time per game, will be counted upon heavily in critical games moving forward.
You can bet that Bill and Diane will be doing their part as ardent fans, cheering and screaming for the U.S. boys from the stands.
“Our goal here is hopefully the celebration of a gold medal,” said Diane. “It would be wonderful.”
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