Lou Nanne was a versatile player who was proficient at right-wing and defence. He played all 635 of his NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars. While he was a solid player on the ice for the Stars, his greatest contribution came after he retired and built the club into a Stanley Cup contender.
Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Nanne played three years at the University of Minnesota where he studied business administration. In 1962-63 he led the WCHA in scoring with 43 points in 29 games and was named to the conference all-star team and the NCAA West first all-American team. This was followed by four high scoring years in USHL with the Rochester Mustangs.
After becoming a U.S. citizen, Nanne joined his new country's national team in 1967 then scored four points in seven games at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics. He signed with the Minnesota North Stars in March 1968 and got a couple of big league games under his belt before preparing for training camp.
Beginning in 1968-69, Nanne spent a decade wearing a North Stars uniform. He scored 21 goals in 1971-72 but was predominantly a playmaker and penalty killer. Of his 225 career points, 157 were assists. He often formed an effective partnership with Murray Oliver and Dean Prentice. In 1970-71, he scored nine points in 12 games as the North Stars extended the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens to six games in the semi-finals.
Late in his career Nanne saw international duty on behalf of the United States. He was a member of the team that finished fourth at the 1976 World Championships and a few months later played on Team USA at the inaugural Canada Cup. Nanne played in the 1977 World tournament and suited up for 26 games in 1977-78 before retiring as a player.
After hanging up his skates Nanne was named the North Stars General Manager and coach. Prior to the 1978-79 season, Nanne stepped down as coach and hired Harry Howell. He did keep the GM's portfolio and began to rebuild the struggling franchise. He began by drafting Bobby Smith first overall in 1978 and Steve Payne 19th overall that same year. The merge with the Cleveland Barons yielded such stalwarts as Gilles Meloche and Al MacAdam. Nanne also signed a young winger named Dino Ciccerelli whose badly broken leg as an amateur put off other teams. The Stars improved from 68 to 88 points in 1979-80 and reached the Stanley Cup final the following season. They also reached the semi-finals in 1983-84 and were one of the most entertaining teams in the league for several years. Nanne's reputation grew to the point that he was appointed the manager of the U.S. Canada Cup entries in 1981 and 1984. The veteran administrator stepped down as general manager of Minnesota in 1988 for health reasons.