This week’s column is on none other than “sweet Lou from the Sault,” as he is referred to today in some local circles, Lou Nanne.
Lou grew up in the Sault and played juvenile hockey with other Sault Legends like Chico Maki and Phil Esposito.
“Chico was the best player in bantam,” Lou said of the late Maki. “A leading scorer, an excellent player and a great guy.”
Nanne spent 5 years in our local juvenile league and also played with Chico’s brother Bobby Maki, Benny Greco and Pat Nardini to name a handful.
Actually he used to skate at the McFadden School rink among others, when he wasn’t playing in the league at the old Central Park.
Since then he has done some pretty “big things.”
He has won the Lester Patrick Trophy, given to him in 1989, by the NHL for his years of dedication to American hockey. He is in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. And in 1963 he won the scoring title for the WCHA and was given the league’s MVP award; something unheard-of for a defenseman!
But to talk to the man, he is kind and respectful, even though he has so much going on in his life.
“I fly about 130,000 miles in a year,” he laughs as he has so many places to be and work to do. And he’s still working in business as was his Batchelor Degree discipline.
Of course that was after he switched from studying dentistry.
That was in Minneapolis, Minnesota at university “and on weekends I made $30 a game playin’ for Rochester.” This was for the Rochester Mustangs. He averaged a point per game or better.
After college he got offers from Chicago, Detroit and Boston but they wouldn’t give him a full contract. “Chicago said they didn’t even have Bobby Hull signed.” And Nanne, itching to play in the NHL, came in at the right time as the NHL expansion happened and Minnesota had a new team called the North Stars. Nanne was signed right away.
In that first NHL game “I played all five positions except goal,” Nanne said about the game against St. Louis. It showed that Nanne’s skills were needed almost everywhere. “We didn’t have many guys on the roster,” Lou said.
Although Nanne was known for being a scoring defenseman, in his 1971-72 season he moved up to being a forward which awarded him with his highest scoring year in the NHL with 21 goals and 28 assists in 78 games.
That came after success in the 1970-71 playoffs, where Nanne, already well known for his years of penalty killing, was given a shot as a forward and scored 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in just 12 games. This was the year that was one of the team’s best, where they defeated the Blues 4 games to 2 but lost the semifinals against the powerful Canadians, 2 games to 4.
Nanne would play in total 635 games with the North Stars netting 68 goals and 157 assists not including 4 goals and 10 assists in the 32 games the North Stars played in the playoffs during his career.
Nanne’s last season was in 1977-78 where he would end up coaching the team after 26 games on the ice, for the rest of the season.
In 1967-68 he represented the United States at the Olympics. “A bill was put through congress to get me to play,” Nanne said, as he was a Canadian prior to the Olympics of that year. He served as captain of the American team that year.
He would also play for the U.S. National Team in 1976 and 77, participating in the Ice Hockey World Championships. Then again he would be the desired captain or alternate.
The Nanne lineage has been written about by journalists. He has three family members currently playing college hockey and his brother Marty was drafted by Chicago and is now scouting for the Minnesota Wild.
When he’s not doing business these days Nanne is on KFAN and KSUP radio twice a week. He is also part of the U.S.A. Hockey Foundation and does a television show on Sunday nights.
He has also spent the last 52 years broadcasting the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament.