Morgan Skinner was only three years old but she still remembers talking and waving at her mom and getting mad that her greeting was not being reciprocated.
Julie can easily be forgiven, as she technically wasn’t in the room at the time. She was more than 1,600 kilometres away, in Salt Lake City, Utah,
competing for Canada in curling at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Morgan was at home in Victoria, B.C., watching on TV as her mom was on her way to winning a bronze medal.
Fast-forward 13 years, and it’s the daughter who’s now on the ice and mom proudly doing the cheering.
Morgan is a goaltender for British Columbia at the 2015 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, her third time representing her province. She played as an
under-ager at the same event in 2013; this past February she competed at the Canada Winter Games. Now 17, she’s about the same age her mom was when she
started making a name for herself on the national stage.
Julie captured the 1986 and 1987 Canadian junior curling championship, and the first-ever world junior curling championship in 1988. She won the Tournament
of Hearts in 1991. She won it again in 2000, as the most valuable player of the playoff round, and followed it up with a world title. In between, she
skipped Canada to a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games, where curling was a demonstration sport
“I think my mom would say I’m having a taste of my own medicine because I remember my mother as being a nervous mother,” says Julie. Sitting in the hack
then was much easier than sitting in the stands now. “It was harder when she was younger. I would get nervous.”
“The older I got the more I understood everything she went through,” says Morgan. “As I started becoming a high-performance athlete and going through all
the training myself, I understood more how much she’s done and how much she’s accomplished.”
She also realized that her mom really did understand what she was going through, trying to balance the pressure of competing in a weekend tournament with
the stress of studying for a test on Monday morning.
“She’s always been the mom to say don’t think too much, don’t worry, just do what you can,” says Morgan. She pushed her only to have fun, never to put
pressure on herself. “That’s the kind of approach she took. Also, be confident in yourself. You’re in this position for a reason so take advantage of it
and just have fun with it.”
Julie believes that the best advice she can give her daughter doesn’t stem from what did on a sheet of ice, but rather from what she learned in the hours
in between. Her husband, Dean, has taken on the role of athletic adviser; Julie is happy to just play parent.
“It’s important as a young athlete to have that support from both ends and not just be seen as the athlete, but to really have someone help with school and
life and balancing those things out,” she says. It’s easy as a young athlete to get caught up in just sport. “My advice to her is as simple as it’s always
been: you do your best and have fun. It’s as simple as that because I want her to realize that there’s more to life than just hockey.”
The message has gotten through, and Morgan has never felt the need to differentiate herself from her mom’s mindset or her history.
“If I were a curler probably I’d feel a lot of pressure to do what she, but since I’m a hockey player I think it’s just a completely different sport in so
many ways, so I don’t feel much pressure to do all the things she did,” says Morgan.
“I’m happy she’s not a curler,” says Julie, laughing. “I think it’s great that she’s carved her own path and she chose her own sport. She’s a goalie. She’s
got that mentality, and it’s been fun to watch her gain confidence in that role.”
After playing defence for two years with integrated Novice teams, Morgan switched associations and positions. Her new girls’ team needed a netminder, and
after volunteering one week Morgan discovered a natural talent. She worked through the initial learning curve – “I remember going down a lot and doing
really unorthodox things trying to figure everything out” – and worked out how to now maneuver on the ice (“I remember not being able to move in my gear”).
By first-year Peewee she had it figured out. As her team’s only goalie, she played the entire season and led them to a provincial title, the Victoria Minor
Hockey Association’s first. “I played really well and was like ‘I’m actually starting to get good at this,’” she says. “It’s kind of all clicking.”
Both under-16 and, to her surprise, under-18 camp invites – and appearances – came her way in 2013. Earlier this year she experienced her own mini-Olympics
at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. She’s become well-versed herself in playing in front of larger crowds, under the glare of television
lights and the watchful eye of scouts.
After two seasons with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, B.C., Morgan moved home for her Grade 12 year, to be closer to family before she embarks
on the next step of her hockey career. The alternate captain for the Pacific Steelers has committed to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., just the
next step on a road that she hopes leads to national, world and Olympic appearances of her own.