Sabers Skinner: figure skating made him a better hockey player

Jeff Skinner’s ability to bounce back to the top after a difficult season with the Sabers is due, in part, to another passion on the ice: figure skating.

BUFFALO, NY — The Sabers’ season is lost, but Jeff Skinner’s game is found.

With four goals and an assist in Sunday’s 5-3 win over Montreal, the former NHL star showed he was coming back to form.

Skinner leads the Sabers in goals after scoring just seven last season.

Her ability to bounce back comes, in part, from another passion on the ice: figure skating.

“My mom tells the story that my sister was a figure skater, and I went to the rink, and she won a medal,” Skinner said. “I said to my mother, ‘I want to win one.’ So she’s like, ‘OK, well, then you have to skate.’

“I followed and started liking it, and I kept doing it.”

The fight for a medal began, one jump at a time.

A college hockey coach who grew up near Skinner in Ontario, Canada, told 2 On Your Side’s Julianne Pelusi that he and his teammates had always hoped the future Sabers forward would figure skate every weekend and that they wouldn’t see him in hockey tournaments.

Otherwise, Skinner would blow their doors down. He led a double life on skates, playing both figure skating and hockey, for about eight years.

“I just liked the jump parts,” Skinner said of the former sport. “I come from a big family, so maybe I get a bit more attention, maybe I tend to enjoy the performance part.”

He was working on landing his triple jumps when it came time to make a decision. Skinner said he enjoyed hockey a little more and chose to stay focused there, giving up figure skating around age 13.

He wasn’t quite on the level of Team USA’s last gold medal figure skater, Nathan Chen, nicknamed the “Quad King”, for his quadruple jumps in his performance.

“I saw a bit of it, yeah,” Skinner said of Chen’s performance.

“It’s pretty impressive. Now I think back to when I was skating, I remember kind of watching, and it was pretty rare for a quad to land, and now it’s kind of like s ‘they made multiples and combinations with them.’

But he learned to be a better skater, to have the opportunity to skate so often, and to be resilient.

“I think with anything, it’s kind of like… you have a good workout, and if you like it and enjoy it, then you find a way to fight through those tough times” , said Skinner of his career as a figure skater. .

Over the course of his 12 season NHL career, Skinner has been through some tough times.

A 40-goal season three years ago made the 29-year-old a $72million man, before being benched by former coach Ralph Krueger last season.

“Over 700 games…I never really thought I needed a day off to review things,” Skinner said, as he struggled to score in February 2021.

He said he was able to keep things in day-to-day perspective while on the bench.

“You just try to work on your game and keep improving and you kind of know there’s going to be ups and downs, and you just have to fight through some of those periods where you encounter adversity. , and that’s kind of how I saw it,” Skinner said.

“I think that’s kind of my mindset as I go forward, are there going to be tough, tough times. There’s going to be good times and you just have to keep pushing through all of this.”

Questions about Skinner’s monster contract turned into on-ice chatter early in the season, but he managed to let the tweets roll off his shoulders.

“It’s the heat of the moment. I think guys say a lot of things, and you have to take it with a grain of salt there, because you’re taking too much personally there, you’re going to have your hurt feelings,” Skinner said. “You have to have thick skin.”

But will Skinner have the last word? He regains confidence with his new head coach, Don Granato.

Jeff can’t quite put his finger on the difference between the two seasons.

“There are a lot of variables, I think, that come into play, so it’s hard to pinpoint one or two different things that have changed,” he said.

“Obviously I’ve had a few more chances, and when you have them I think you want to try and prove the coach right.”

Seeing the hard work provided by Skinner, Granato made it his mission to help his winger be productive, putting him on a successful line with Tage Thompson, who moved to the center this season.

The move is going for both.

“It’s been good. I really enjoyed working with him,” Skinner said of Granato.

“He communicates extremely well. He believes in his players.”

A little confidence has gone a long way, and Skinner is getting back on track in Buffalo, where a rebuild — chasing the silver Stanley Cup, instead of a gold — might be legit this time around. .

Catherine J. Martinez