Gord Lane's career in pro hockey can be evenly divided between the bad and the good. The bad part was so negative in fact that even he couldn't foresee just how great things would be farther down the rink of life.
He started off just fine as an amateur with the Brandon Wheat Kings and the New Westminster Bruins. It was easy for the scouts to see that in Lane they would be getting a stay-at-home, stay-in-your face defender who could play a very bellicose brand of hockey.
The Pittsburgh Penguins picked him in the 1973 Entry Draft, but he never caught on with the club. Instead, he became a minor-league brawler in the IHL with the Fort Wayne Comets and the Dayton Gems. The former club released him because, by his own admission, he could fight but do little else on the ice. The local fans even maintained a "We Hate Gordie Lane" fan club.
But Lane was also a fighter from within. He refused to give up on his wish to play in the NHL. In 1976, he signed as a free agent with the Washington Capitals. In between a few minor-league outings, he managed to gain a toehold in the league over the three seasons that followed.
Then, in 1979, he left the Caps during a contract dispute and returned home to Brandon to consider new career options. While there, the phone rang with the Islanders' GM Bill Torrey on the line. The up-and-coming Isles were in need of a tough, ornery defender whose profile fit Lane's to a tee. Needless to say, he jumped at the offer, heading to Long Island near the end of the year.
The transition from the Caps to the Islanders meant a complete rebirth of Lane's career in hockey. He was paired with Dave Langevin and as a duo the two played solid, kitty-bar-the-door defense that laid the necessary foundation to help lead the club to four-straight Stanley Cup victories. Lane has been credited as being the team's most effective defender during that era.
He lasted with the Islanders for two additional seasons after the glory dust had settled. He retired in 1985 to take up a post as head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. The gig didn't work out well, however, so he made a single-season comeback with the Springfield Indians of the AHL and then hung up his blades for good to coach the club in 1987-88.
Player bios courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame