The Zen of Stuart Skinner

Following these sage words from the Oilers goalie will do you way more good than that latest self-help bestseller

It might be too early into his NHL career to refer to Stuart Skinner as the philosopher king of the NHL. But, in a sport filled with clichés, Skinner’s ability to be frank about his play in the Oilers’ crease – and what hockey means to him — makes him seem a lot wiser than a 25-year-old should be.

On the scoreboard at Rogers Place, images of Principal Skinner from The Simpsons are shown after the home team’s goalie makes a save. But, outside of the two sharing a surname, it doesn’t feel right. After Skinner speaks, you feel like he might be the guy who walks into a Sobey’s wearing a housecoat, paying for a carton of cream with a cheque.

There’s a zen that Skinner exudes, no matter if he’s shut out the opposition or if he was yanked after a bad period. And, really, Skinner’s views on goaltending, being a professional athlete in your hometown, and life itself should be placed in a little chapbook. It’s better than any of the other self-help books on your shelf.

But, instead of a chapbook, why not print out this piece and paste it on your fridge? It’s way better than those affirmations you see on Instagram from that “friend” you know you should block. It’s better than the photo of the beach and the inspirational words that are in your aunt’s bathroom.

Here we go: The Zen of Skinner.


In training camp this season, I was in the press conference and asked Skinner if being a new dad had changed the way he saw goaltending.

“Just as I was going through my summer regimen of trying to get better, growing my game, Beau was trying to figure out how to crawl. I wasn’t trying to tell him how to do it. I wasn’t telling him ‘You’re doing that wrong,’ or ‘You’re doing this right.’ I was just kind of letting him adapt to crawling.

“That might sound a little silly, but it’s kind of the same with the game. You just keep on going, you keep on going forward, you keep on trying to crawl, you keep on trying to stand.”

Remember that the next time your great idea at work gets rejected. You keep going. You learn to crawl. Every day.


You think you’ve had a bad week? Skinner, like the rest of his team, endured a miserable opening month and a half to the season. With each passing day, he saw rumors about the Oilers having to go out and trade for a netminder, because the status quo wasn’t working.

He told reporters this: “I think just being able to stick with it and persevere, individually, was really big for myself. There’s a lot of things that go into it — seeing that gratitude instead of thinking about all of the bad things that are happening in your life, thinking about family and that you’ve got loved ones with you at all times. So, that really helped me a lot. And, obviously, being around this group, the guys haven’t lost faith in me. They believe in me, and that’s been the reason I am still able to have confidence in myself.”


After the team was eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round of the 2023 playoffs — Skinner placed a lot of blame on himself. Poetically, he finished with this statement: “This is obviously part of the book that one day we’re all going to write. This is a chapter where it stings and it sucks and it’s painful.”


Does the boss tell you that you haven’t been productive enough? Come back to work the next day with this on a t-shirt. From Skinner, when he was asked about his save percentage during the Oilers’ tough start to the ’23-’24 campaign.

“Goalies know how to play — and numbers lie.”


Skinner was asked when he thought he would have the goaltending position mastered.

“I’ll have to tell you when I’ve figured it out, which might be never.”

Words to live by, no matter what you do. It’s OK if you’re burning those Anthony Robbins books, now.


It’s one of the most clichéd, and boring, questions that reporters ask goaltenders. How do you respond after a goal goes in? Honestly, a decent and acceptable answer to this lazy question would be “f—you,” but Skinner came back with this in the 2022-23 campaign.

“If you think about it this year, there’s one shutout I’ve got, so every game I’m letting in a goal, right? I’ve had lots of practice rebounding from goals against.”

(He’s got two shutouts so far this season).


OK, maybe recency bias plays into it, but in a media scrum a week ago, Skinner was asked about the pressure of being a goalie — about hearing the criticism and boo-birds.

“To be honest, that is the dream. Sometimes, being heckled is an incredible honour.

“Some people will say I suck, and that’s great. I’m going to keep working on my game. I get to play the game that I love to play.”