At the same time the Oshawa Generals were developing future Hockey Hall of Famer Alex Delvecchio, they were also developing another player that would become one of the most prolific goal scorers in the WHL. At the time Lou Jankowski played in the pro version of the Western Hockey League, there was no NHL teams west of Chicago. The WHL was destined to become a direct rival to the NHL, that is if the 1967-68 expansion did not occur.
Lou Jankowski – OHL
Jankowski played three years in the OHA Junior A circuit with the Oshawa Generals from 1948-49 to 1950-51. Over his junior career, he scored 92 and assisted on 96 for 188 points over 133 games. As with most that pass through the OHL, his final season was his best.
In 1950-51, Lou scored 65 and assisted on 59 for 124 points over 54 regular season games. He led the league in scoring, earning the Eddie Powers Trophy. However, he was denied the Red Tilson Trophy as MVP with that award going to goaltender Glenn Hall of the Windsor Spitfires.
A trademark of his entire hockey career, Jankowski sat just 14 minutes in the penalty box that season. With not a whole lot of depth after Lou and Delvecchio, the Generals finished fifth in the ten team league. In the playoffs, Oshawa was stymied by Glenn Hall and lost out to the Spitfires in the opening round.
That year saw Jankowski and Delvecchio both play a single game with the Detroit Red Wings. Lou got on the scoreboard but the Wings obviously liked what they saw in Alex just a little more.
Lou Jankowski – NHL
Jankowski played 127 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1950-51 and 1954-55 with Detroit and the Chicago Blackhawks. Over that time, he totaled 37 points and sat just 15 penalty minutes. He appeared in just one Stanley Cup playoff games and that was with the Red Wings in 1952-53. Detroit finished first overall that year but were upset by the Boston Bruins in the opening round.
On August 12, 1953, Lou was sent to the Blackhawks, along with Larry Wilson and Larry Zeidel. It was with Chicago in 1953-54 that Jankowski played his only full season in the NHL, appearing in 68 games and contributing 28 points.
Later, in June of 1964, Jankowski was claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs after his record setting 1963-64 WHL season. However, he would never return to the NHL as a player.
Lou Jankowski – Minor Pro
Over his career, Lou played in 284 regular season games in the American Hockey League and 698 in the WHL. After his short NHL career, Jankowski was sent down to the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL after 39 games with the Blackhawks in 1954-55. He finished the AHL season strong with 16 points in eleven games. In the Calder Cup playoffs, he contributed just seven assists over ten games. The Bisons reached the finals but fell in six games to the Howie Meeker coached Pittsburgh Hornets. Buffalo also had Ken Wharram and Pierre Pilote on the roster, both destined for great careers with the Blackhawks.
He remained with the Bisons until the end of the 1957-58 AHL season. In 1958-59, his historic WHL career began with a bang. Over his 698 career games in the WHL, Jankowski scored 367 and assisted on 364 for 731 points. He spent just minutes in the penalty box. In the Lester Patrick Cup playoffs, Lou played in 52 games, adding 31 points. In the league, he played for the Calgary Stampeders, Denver Invaders, Victoria Maple Leafs, Phoenix Roadrunners and Denver Spurs.
On four occasions, Lou led the WHL in goal scoring, including his first three years in the league. In 1958-59, he led with 45. In 1959-60 he led with 42 and in 1960-61 he set his immortal record of 57 goals. He returned to the top in 1963-64, his only year with the Denver Invaders, leading with 41 goals.
Jankowski was a First Team All-Star in 1959-60, 1960-61 and 1963-64. In 1961-62, he was a Second Team All-Star. It was playoff success that didn’t come easy. In his first season with Calgary, the Stampeders swept the Winnipeg Warriors in the semi-finals before being swept by the Seattle Totems in the finals. He would get his one Lester Patrick Cup championship but it would come nearer the end of his career.
1960-61 was easily Lou’s pinnacle season in pro hockey. With Calgary, he scored 57 and assisted on 42 for 99 points with just seven PIM. As mentioned, it was the most ever scored in a single WHL season and he obviously led the league. His 99 points placed him second in the league, one point behind Art Jones of the Portland Buckaroos. Jankowski was honoured with the George Leader Cup as league MVP, the only time he win the trophy.
Those 1960-61 Stampeders finished first overall in the eight team league but were upset in the opening round by the fourth seed Seattle Totems in four games. Also on the roster was future captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ed Van Impe.
In 1963-64, with Denver, Jankowski was finally recognized for his sportsmanship. Sitting just five minor penalties over 69 regular season games, Lou won his one and only Fred J. Hume Cup. Like those 1960-61 Stampeders, the Invaders finished first overall but were upset in the first round by the Los Angeles Blades. Along with leading the league with 41 goals, Lou was fourth with 85 points and tied for tenth with Pat Stapleton of the Portland Buckaroos with 44 assists.
Lou’s individual numbers dropped when he found himself with the Victoria Maple Leafs but he spent a lot of time in the playoffs. The 1964-65 Maple Leafs finished just fourth in the six team league with 66 points over 70 games. Yet, Victoria reached the finals before falling to Portland in five. Jankowski tied for tenth that year with 30 goals.
In 1965-66, Lou finally won a pro hockey championship. Victoria moved up the standings to finish second in the six team league. With Hal Laycoe as head coach, the Maple Leafs won the Lester Patrick Cup by beating the rival Buckaroos in seven games. In fact, all three playoff matchups that year went the full seven games. With 32 goals, Jankowski finished the regular season in ninth.
His career ended after the 1968-69 season, a year that finished off with the Amarillo Wranglers of the Central Hockey League. The following year, he tested the head coaching waters with the Jersey Devils of the EHL. The team finished last overall in the eleven team league and did not qualify for the post season.
Lou Jankowski passed away in 2010 at the age of 78.