James D. Skinner, known to all as “Jimmie,” spent 34 years with the Detroit Red Wings organization in the National Hockey League. He is understood to have started the tradition of kissing the Stanley Cup after winning it.
Skinner was born on January 12, 1917, in Selkirk, Manitoba.
As a young man, Skinner worked in the mines in Flin Flon, Manitoba while pursuing a career in hockey as a part-time forward and defenceman. Eventually, he secured a place with the Winnipeg Rangers and developed into an all-star player.
Eventually, the Detroit Red Wings’ General Manager Jack Adams discovered Skinner and signed him to a minor league contract. In the years that followed, Skinner played for Indianapolis and Omaha in the Detroit Red Wings’ system. He captained Omaha to a title while playing alongside a young Gordie Howe.
Skinner’s greatest success in hockey would come from behind the bench. Skinner moved to Windsor in 1945 to take a job as the second coach of the Windsor Spitfires – at that time a new affiliate of the Red Wings. In his first three seasons with the Spitfires, Skinner graduated 17 players to the NHL.
In time, Skinner followed his protégés to hockey’s highest level. In 1954, Adams appointed him as Head Coach of the Red Wings. In his first year in the role, Detroit won the Stanley Cup with a line-up that featured his former Spitfire players Marcel Pronovost, Terry Sawchuk, and Glen Skov.
In 1955-56, Skinner led Detroit to first place during the regular season, but the team bowed out in the playoffs. Unfortunately, illness forced him to retire from his duties behind the bench during the ’57-58 campaign.
Skinner remained with the Detroit organization for decades in a number of roles, including Chief Scout and Farm Club Director and Director of Player Personnel.
As General Manager of the Hamilton Red Wings, he helped guide Detroit’s junior farm team to the 1964 Memorial Cup. He also served a term as General Manager of the NHL Red Wings between 1980 and his retirement in ’82.
Along with Stafford Smythe, Tommy Ivan, Sam Pollock, and Clarence Campbell, Skinner was on the original NHL steering committee that was responsible for establishing the rules of the NHL Draft.
Skinner will also be remembered for establishing what has now become a Stanley Cup tradition. “The kiss” took place in the spring of 1955, after the rookie head coach had guided the Red Wings to the seventh Stanley Cup in the team’s history.
Jimmie Skinner passed away on July 11, 2007 in his 91st year.