Rod Langway, a two-time winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002. But did you know that he was also a top quarterback recruit for College Football and was considered a baseball pro-prospect as a catcher? Langway choose hockey as his professional career, but only after playing both football and hockey in college and leading the University of New Hampshire to the NCAA hockey final four in 1977.
A left-handed shot, Langway was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL in 1977 and by the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA in the same year. He played one season for the Bulls (1977–78) before joining the Canadiens for the 1978–79 NHL season, and would win the Stanley Cup that year. He played for Montreal until he was traded to the Washington Capitals for the start of the1982–83 season.
The Capitals acquired Langway from the Canadiens in a blockbuster trade — going with Doug Jarvis, Craig Laughlin, and Brian Engblom in exchange for Ryan Walter and Rick Green — that not only saved the franchise from moving out of DC, but also stocked them for an extended string of postseason appearances.
After not making the playoffs in their first eight seasons in the league, the Capitals competed in the postseason in every one of the 11 years that Langway was with the team. Following that trade, the Capitals named Langway their captain, a title he would hold for the next 11 seasons until his NHL retirement. As captain, Langway became known as an accomplished leader who demanded greatness from himself and others, earning the nickname "Secretary of Defense". Many people considered him the franchise's savior, despite not being the sort of player that one would expect to prevent the club from moving.
Langway's predecessors as Norris Trophy winners were the dominant defensemen of the 1970s, like Bobby Orr, Larry Robinson, and Denis Potvin, who had put up high scoring numbers. By contrast, Langway was a traditional defender whose shot was likened to a "cool summer breeze", scoring only three goals during one of his best seasons, though he is remembered by Capitals fans for a game–winning goal in overtime against the New York Rangers' Mike Richter in the 1990 playoffs. Despite his lack of offensive production, his excellence at his position was credited with significantly reducing the Capitals' goals against average, which enabled them to finally make the playoffs.
Langway won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in both 1983 and 1984. He earned two postseason All-Star First Team selections and one Second Team selection as a defenseman—the first American NHL All-Star since Frank Brimsek in 1948. Langway finished runner-up to Wayne Gretzky for the Hart Trophy in 1982. He was also part of the NHL All-Star team that played the Soviet national hockey team in Rendez-Vous '87.
Upon his retirement from the NHL in 1993, Langway was the last active player who won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens during their late-70s dynasty. In international hockey, he represented the United States in the 1981, 1984, and 1987 Canada Cup as well as the 1982 Ice Hockey World Championship tournaments.