Queen’s Gaels hire former NHLer John Erskine as assistant coach

Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine (4) fights with Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Arron Asham (45). (Nick Wass/AP)

Former NHL defenceman John Erskine joined the Queen’s Gaels as an assistant coach on Friday.

The 37-year-old Erskine played in 491 career NHL games — including eight seasons with the Washington Capitals — scoring 54 points and accumulating 865 penalty minutes.

“I’m so excited to work with these young student-athletes and translate my many experiences on the ice to behind the bench,” Erskine said in a release. “It is a great opportunity to get back into the game at a very high level.”

Queen’s (9-4-3) enters the second half of the Ontario University Athletics season in sixth place in the East Division.

The Gaels were left with a coaching vacancy after longtime assistant Tony Cimellaro joined the Belleville Senators of the American Hockey League on Dec. 21.

“I was extremely pleased when John accepted the position as he was my only target when I knew Tony was leaving,” Queen’s head coach Brett Gibson said.

“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.”

Gibson and Erskine played together with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights during the 1999-2000 season.

The Gaels appeared in the U Sports University Cup last year for the first time since 1981.

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