Proudly enshrined in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, center Rob McClanahan was a decent National Hockey League role player in parts of five seasons in the 1980s. Before that he was an outstanding amateur player.
Rob got his first taste of international action in 1979. With the University season over, Rob joined the United States national team for the World Championships. Rob found he thoroughly enjoyed his stint with the national team, and made a full time commitment in 1979-80. Not only did he turn in a superb season with 34 goals and 70 points in 63 official games (only Mark Johnson scored more), but he was named to the United States Olympic team in Lake Placid, New York.
That hockey team needs no introduction. In the most famous hockey event in United States sporting history, a bunch of mostly college kids upset probably the greatest team in the world and perhaps ever in the Soviet national team en route to winning Olympic gold on home ice! McClanahan, despite suffering a deep charley horse early in the tournament, led the way for the Americans, tying Buzz Schneider for the team in points with 5 goals and 3 assists. McClanahan, who was the victim of a legendary yelling match with coach Herb Brooks over his injury, scored what proved to be the game winning goal in the gold medal clinching game against Finland!
McClanahan joined the Buffalo Sabres immediately following the Olympics, but didn't find the same success as quickly in the NHL. His quickness helped him be a versatile performer but in Buffalo he was used more as a role player due to depth at the center ice position. McClanahan would struggle with the physical nature of the professional game, scoring just 3 goals and 15 points in his first full NHL season in 1980-81.
Despite his poor showing to that date in the NHL, Rob was able to secure a spot on the United States entry into the 1981 Canada Cup. Unlike amateur tournaments, the legendary Canada Cup tournaments (now known as the World Cup of Hockey) featured the best professionals in the world. Rob earned a spot on that team, but scored no points in 6 games.
Despite his inclusion on the Canada Cup team, the Sabres exposed Rob on waivers just prior to the 1981-82 season. He was picked up by the Hartford Whalers, but after 17 games he had picked up just 3 assists and was demoted to the minors. He was later acquired by the New York Rangers that season, reuniting him with coach Herb Brooks. .
Rob enjoyed his best NHL days in Manhattan. He finished the 1981-82 season with the Rangers and finally emerged as a NHL caliber player in the 1982-83 season. Playing on a line with Mark Pavelich and Anders Hedberg, Rob scored 22 goals (none of which were on the power play) and 48 points. He had a strong playoff as well, scoring 2 goals and 7 point in 9 contests.
Injuries decimated Rob in the 1983-84 season, and would claim his hockey career. Off season trades would see his playing rights transfer to Detroit and Vancouver, but he would never play again. He retired in November 1984 rather than accept a demotion to the minor leagues. He would return to his native Minnesota and later would work as an investment broker.
In total Rob played in 224 NHL contests. He scored 38 goals and 101 points. But his biggest highlights in hockey came outside of the professional game.