John Erskine Talks About His New Coaching Job, His Coaching Style and Playing with Alex Ovechkin

Photo: Patrick Kennedy/The Whig-Standard

Last week we relayed to you the news that former Capitals Defenseman John Erskine has accepted an assistant coaching position with Queens University, in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario.  This is Erskine’s first coaching job at the University level. Erskine gave his first interview with the Queens University Journal this week, were he was asked about his interest in coaching, coaching styles and his time in Washington.

Following Erksine’s hiring, Gaels head coach Brett Gibson spoke with the Gaels website about his decision to pursue Erskine to fill a recent vacancy on his coaching staff.

“I was extremely pleased when John accepted the position as he was my only target when I knew Tony was leaving,” said Gibson on his newest assistant. “He is a guy I have played with and also a guy that played hockey with a great passion. He has been coached by some of the best this game has, and he will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff. Our players, when informed, were very excited to get to work with John.”

Erskine gave his first interview this week with the Queens University Journal. Here are a few excerpts from the interview. You can read the full article here.

How did you find your way to join the team?
“I played with Brett Gibson in probably [1999] or 2000 back in London with the London Knights, and when we’d have our [NHL] lockout, I’d come skate with the boys here in Kingston.

So I know Gibby and he called me and said, ‘[Assistant coach Tony] Cimellaro got a chance up in Bellville,’ and he wanted to know if I was interested. I didn’t really have much on-the-go right now and I thought it was a good opportunity to get in, help [Gibson] out. I can learn off a guy like him.”

Erskine on coaching style
“I had some pretty good coaches — I had [Barry] Trotz, I had [Ken] Hitchcock, a bunch of guys. But I just take little things from each coach, things that I liked.I talked to some of [our] players … I’m not a big yeller, I’m pretty calm — I’m more of a get the guys motivated, constructive criticism, stuff like that. I just take those little things I know and show the players some stuff on the ice and in the film room.”

“There’s coaches that scream at guys, but from when I played, I didn’t perform well when I had a coach in my ear screaming at me. I needed to be motivated; constructive criticism, tell me what I did wrong and how to fix it. And I think screaming at kids — nothing good comes across [with] that.”

On his future in coaching
“You know, I haven’t even thought that far yet. I’ve been thinking about coaching. I helped coach my [kids], but at this level, this was kind of unexpected. I like coaching at this level because you don’t have to teach them how to skate and how to handle a puck … If it keeps going like this — and I enjoy it — then I definitely want to [pursue] it.”

On playing with Alex Ovechkin
“Ovechkin just goes out there and works his butt off every night and wants to win. He’s always going-going-going, but he’s pretty down to earth and a great guy — and he’s a great teammate. I had a lot of fun playing on those Washington teams.”

You can read the remainder of the interview right here.

Jon Sorensen

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About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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