Don Jackson was a rugged defenceman who was also adept at moving the puck up the ice. At 6'3" and 210 lbs., he was more than capable of clearing the front of his goal but he rarely drew unnecessary penalties.
The native of Minneapolis, Minnesota played his amateur hockey at Notre Dame. Following his sophomore year, Jackson was chosen 39th overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1976 Amateur Draft. In 1977-78, he played two late season games for the North Stars before joining the U.S. entry at the World Championships. He spent most of the next year with the CHL's Oklahoma City Stars before ending again at the World Championships with Team USA.
Jackson spent two more years in Minnesota as a farm hand and emergency fill-in before he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for the rights to troubled forward Don Murdoch. During this time he fostered a successful real estate business in Minneapolis-St. Paul and was very reluctant to make the move to Alberta. Jackson decided to join the Oilers' organization since the recession of the early 1980s slowed down the real estate market. He played most of the 1981-82 season with the Oilers' CHL affiliate in Wichita, Kansas where he benefited from a solid relationship with coach John Muckler.
The 1982-83 season saw Jackson and partner Randy Gregg emerge as an important physical presence in Edmonton's speedy line-up. They also demonstrated an ability to move the puck with sufficient skill so as not to interfere with the Oilers' vaunted transition game. That spring Jackson scored three goals and helped Edmonton reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time. He was a regular over the next three years when the Oilers dominated the NHL in the regular season and won consecutive Stanley Cups in 1984 and 1985. In the fall of 1984 he was one of the last cuts made by Team USA prior to the Canada Cup.
On the eve of the 1986-87 season, Jackson was traded to the New York Rangers in the deal that brought veteran offensive defenceman Reijo Ruotsalainen to Edmonton. He played 22 games for the Blueshirts before ending his career that lasted 311 regular season games.