Caps defenseman John Erskine first dropped the gloves in an NHL game on Dec. 22, 2001 when he was with the Dallas Stars. Erskine fought Jody Shelley, then of the Columbus Blue Jackets. For Shelley, it was his sixth regular season NHL bout.
Shelley once fought the late Bob Probert three times in the same game, once in each period. Two days later, Shelley fought Probert again.
Now 37, Shelley is still active in the league. He is with the Philadelphia Flyers, but has played just one game thus far this season and has yet to fight. For his career, Shelley has 173 regular season NHL bouts.
Erskine fought Shelley just once after that initial scrap. The two men tangled again on Oct. 25, 2003 but haven’t gone with one another since.
On Saturday night against the Florida Panthers, Erskine engaged in his first fight of the 2012-13 NHL season against the Panthers’ George Parros. Back on Oct. 5, 2005, Erskine was Parros’ first NHL dance partner, when Erskine was with the Stars and Parros with the Los Angeles Kings.
Erskine and Parros fought again 15 days later, but their fistic paths had not crossed again until Saturday.
“I got traded to the East,” shrugged Erskine. “We never saw each other, really.”
Parros had his first, his fourth and his 143rd career NHL fight against Erskine.
“I don’t remember the other ones,” says Erskine of his previous bouts against Parros. “I think they were pretty even fights.
“He’s always been a big guy. When I first fought him, he was just starting out. He’s obviously gotten a lot of experience since then.”
That’s for sure. Aside from Shelley, there can’t be too many active players with more NHL tilts than Parros.
Erskine got a couple of good early shots in on Parros in Saturday’s fight, but the veteran Caps defenseman understandably downplays that scrap.
“I don’t think I hit him with anything too hard,” says Erskine, who now has 62 career regular season fights in the NHL. “He’s a good honest fighter, fun to play against.”
So how did that first-period fight get started?
“He asked me my first shift out,” Erskine relates. “I said, ‘I’ll fight you, but let’s wait a few minutes.’
“I just got back from suspension. I wanted to get my legs under me.
“Then he came out again and I was like, ‘Sure.’ I thought it would be a good thing to get the bench going, get the fans into it. We hadn’t been playing very good lately. I thought it was a good opportunity.”
Mission accomplished. The game was scoreless when Erskine and Parros fought, but Washington went on to a 5-0 victory.
Since he joined the Capitals at the start of the 2006-07 season, Washington is 9-0 in games in which Erskine scores a goal. Including Saturday night, the Caps are now 14-12 in games in which Erskine drops the gloves.