Born and raised in Toronto, Alfred Skinner was only 16 when he entered the ranks of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1912 with the Parkdale Canoe Club. The next season, still splitting his time between summer months on the water and winter on the ice, he graduated to the senior circuit of the OHA with the Toronto Rowing Club. He joined the National Hockey Association in 1914 and spent three seasons honing his skills. He played on two Toronto teams, the Shamrocks and the Blueshirts, and made the trip east one season to play for the Montreal Wanderers for one season.
When the NHA gave way to the National Hockey League in 1917, Skinner was a natural choice for his hometown team, the Toronto Arenas. The Toronto entry in the new league easily won the regular-season title. Skinner had a good year, scoring 13 goals, but he was overshadowed on the championship team by such standouts as Reg Noble and Corb Denneny.
All that changed when the Arenas met the Vancouver Millionaires, the champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, for the 1918 Stanley Cup. Cyclone Taylor had joined the Patrick brothers in Vancouver and as a superstar was expected to dominate for the Millionaires in the finals. But instead it was Skinner who exploded, scoring seven goals in the first three games of the five-game series. He scored again in the final game to help Toronto win the title and gain the newly formed NHL the instant recognition that comes with a Stanley Cup.
Skinner played one more season in Toronto and was then enticed to join the Vancouver team he'd helped defeat the previous year. He played in Vancouver for five years, three with the Millionaires and two with the Maroons. His team went almost all the way, reaching four Stanley Cup finals, but he never repeated the success of his first games in the west.
When the Western Canada Hockey League swallowed up the PCHA, Skinner once again joined the NHL. He played for two expansion teams, the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Maroons, in 1924-25 and then joined another new entry, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the next season. He played only seven games for the Pirates and then spent three years in the minors, finishing his career in hockey as coach of the Guelph Maple Leafs in 1929-30.