TOP 100 OILERS: DON JACKSON (44)

Don Jackson

There’s not a lot of room left on the marquee when you’ve got stars named Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey hogging the spotlight the way they did with the Edmonton Oilers in the early 1980s on the way to Hockey Hall of Fame careers. Don Jackson was always fine with that. Singers sing, dancers dance. Everybody has a job to do.

On a team full of thoroughbreds who’d tear up the track and bring fans to their feet in Edmonton and around the NHL as the Oilers rose up the ranks, Jackson, a big defenseman from Minnesota, was a plough horse. He was one of what people call the lesser lights, doing the grunt work in the background while his more talented teammates took centre stage. It was honest work. Necessary work. 

Don Jackson

Defense

Born Sep 2 1956 — Minneapolis, MN 

Height 6.03 — Weight 210 [191 cm/95 kg]

Drafted by Minnesota North Stars

Round 3 #39 overall 1976 NHL Amateur Draft

Drafted by Calgary Cowboys

Round 8 #91 overall 1976 WHA Amateur Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1977-78

21

MNS

2

0

0

0

1

2

3

0.0

1978-79

22

MNS

5

0

0

0

-1

2

6

0.0

1979-80

23

MNS

10

0

4

4

4

18

8

0.0

1980-81

24

MNS

10

0

3

3

3

19

14

0.0

1981-82

25

EDM

8

0

0

0

0

18

4

0.0

1982-83

26

EDM

71

2

8

10

12

136

72

2.8

1983-84

27

EDM

60

8

12

20

28

120

57

14.0

1984-85

28

EDM

78

3

17

20

27

141

47

6.4

1985-86

29

EDM

45

2

8

10

2

93

34

5.9

1986-87

30

NYR

22

1

0

1

-1

91

4

25.0

5 yrs

EDM

262

15

45

60

69

508

214

7.0

4 yrs

MNS

27

0

7

7

7

41

31

0.0

1 yr

NYR

22

1

0

1

-1

91

4

25.0

Career

311

16

52

68

75

640

249

6.4

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1979-80

23

MNS

1

0

0

0

0

1982-83

26

EDM

16

3

3

6

30

1983-84

27

EDM

19

1

2

3

9

32

16

6.3

1984-85

28

EDM

9

0

0

0

4

64

6

0.0

1985-86

29

EDM

8

0

0

0

3

21

7

0.0

Career

53

4

5

9

16

147

29

3.4

NOTABLE

Jackson’s NHL career spanned just 311 games, 262 of those with the Oilers, but he dropped the gloves a total of 43 times. Jackson was a willing, if not particularly adept, scrapper. He was the kind of guy teammates could count on to have their backs in any situation – that came in handy when the Battle of Alberta really was a battle. Playing in a support role, sticking his nose in when needed, was Jackson’s forte.

You can watch a clip of the Oilers and Flames going at it here with Jackson in the middle of the action. Some more Jackson, with Jim Peplinski, here. For a bit of comedic relief, you can watch Jackson, then coaching Cincinnati in the IHL, throwing down with Atlanta Mascot Sir Slapshot. It’s here. That dust-up cost Jackson a 10-game suspension. Suffice to say, Jackson more than made up for his lack of natural ability with a willingness to compete.

When Jackson arrived from the Minnesota North Stars before the 1981-82 season, Edmonton’s young stars, the core of the team that would go on to win five Stanley Cups, were still kids. Gretzky, Anderson, Messier and Jari Kurri were 21. Coffey was 20. Grant Fuhr was just 19. It was up to Jackson, then 25, Lee Fogolin, Dave Semenko, Dave Lumley and Curt Brackenbury to make sure the kids were alright.

THE STORY

Simply put, there’s nothing in the numbers that shows what a glue guy like Jackson meant to those young Oiler teams. Jackson was a third-pairing player who was at his best when working in tandem with Randy Gregg. His career-high for points was 20, which he hit twice with the Oilers. He scored just 15 goals, a career-high eight coming in 1983-84, during his tenure here.

That said, having talked to so many of the players from those teams of the early 1980s, there’s no question what the likes of Fogolin and Lumley and Jackson meant to that young core. Jackson, not fleet of foot, took care of his own end first and waded into the scrums when needed. Gretzky, Messier and the rest could do what they did because guys like Jackson did their part.

Jackson was part of Edmonton’s first Stanley Cup winner in 1984 and he added a second sip of bubbly for good measure in 1985 before he was dealt to the New York Rangers for the 1986-87 season. When the Oilers held their Boys on the Bus 30-year reunion for the 1984 Cup team, Jackson was here and he was, once again, happy as always to let the then-50-something kids take the spotlight. Teams don’t win without guys like Jackson.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up. 


Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • RyanCoke

    Now comes the time when less talented players make it high on the list because they actually won the stanley cup. Not saying its a bad thing because I would do the same thing. If you got a ring and lifted that grail then your automatically better than most who have not.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    This was back in the days when there could be more than one fight going on at once so you sometimes needed more than one weapon on the ice.

    Jackson was very much a light-heavyweight kind of guy. While Semenko would take on the other team’s nuclear weapon, Jackson and Kevin McClelland were the conventional weapons they used against the next size down … and they were used a lot. Things could get pretty nutty back in the day and escalate quickly.

    The nice thing about Jackson was that he could also play and, as Robin noted, he worked well with Randy Gregg. Not a lot of chances taken by either of those guys.

    Good piece. Nice to see Jackson get some recognition – 44 is perfect.

  • Just a Fan

    You lost me with this one. Although rumored to be a great guy on and off the ice he was a terrible skater in an era of terrible skaters. Every time he touched the puck was an adventure. You never knew what would happen. Yes he stuck up for his teammates but that was the end of his hockey ability. There is no way he belongs on this list let alone in the top half.

  • I tried it at home

    In my opinion, and that’s all it is, this series is about the players who meant the most to the team, not the 100 “bestest players to ever wear the oil drop”. Jackson was important because of what he meant to the TEAM, not the statistics. Brownlee made a point of that in the article, and I agree with that. This isn’t NHLnumbers.com, its a discussion of the players we’ve seen and what they added to the team. Or not.

  • Deported to Ottawa

    It’s nice to see Jackson get some recognition.

    Sather was a master at getting the missing pieces and Jackson was the type of player needed at the time.