Dr. George Nagobads, team physician for 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, dies at 101

 April 2, 2023

Sad news from the world of Olympic sports came on Friday, when it was revealed that Dr. George Nagobads, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and the team doctor for the legendary 1980 U.S. men's gold medal squad, died at the age of 101, as NBC Sports reported.

In addition to his work with the U.S. Olympic hockey teams, Nagobads was also the longtime doctor for the University of Minnesota men's hockey program.

More than a doctor

As the outlet noted, Nagobads assumed the role of team doctor for U.S. men's Olympic hockey teams in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988, but it was during the historic 1980 games in Lake Placid that he played perhaps his most memorable part.

Just prior to the team's blockbuster contest against the Soviet Union, head coach Herb Brooks gave Nagobads a stopwatch and said of his squad, “Doc, we have to have our legs. We need short shifts. It's the only way we can beat them. No shift can go more than 35 seconds. If somebody is on the ice longer than that, I want you to tug on my sleeve.”

Nagobads accepted the task, later recalling, “I didn't even get to see the game. I was too busy looking at the watch,” and, as sports fans will undoubtedly remember, helping the side to ultimate victory.

A prolific force in professional and collegiate hockey as well, Nagobads was on the staff of the Minnesota North Stars in the late 1980s and early 90s and was an integral part of the University of Minnesota men's program between the years of 1958 and 1992, where he first forged his strong working relationship with Brooks, who was a player there and later a coach.

Determination and fortitude

A native of Latvia, Nagobads immigrated to the United States in the 1950s after completing his medical education in Germany, as NBC Sports further noted.

Despite his many successes in the hockey world, Nagobad confronted adversity in his life as well, as evidenced by an incident in 2015 in which he battled back after suffering from a brutal physical attack at the age of 95.

As Minneapolis-St. Paul Fox affiliate KMSP noted, Nagobads was assaulted by an attacker wielding an ice scraper as he visited his wife's grave at an area cemetery, sustaining a serious wound to the head that required 18 stitches.

Even at his advanced age, Nagobods made it to his vehicle and drove himself to a local hospital, where he received treatment, evincing the toughness and determination that characterized his entire career.

Fondly remembered

According to an obituary for Nagobads posted over the weekend, the doctor passed away surrounded by family members while under hospice care.

Nagobods was predeceased by his wife, Velta, as well as a sister and a brother, but leaves behind two daughters and four grandchildren.

Also left to mourn Nagobods' passing, according to the memorial announcement, are “many hockey sons and daughters from teams over the years who continued their long-lasting relationships.”

The beloved sports physician was, as the notice emphasized, “renowned for his preservation of the Latvian accent, the ability to extract hockey teams from predicaments in Europe, and his skill at ordering wine in at least five languages.” Noted also for his “great zest for life,” Nagobods will undoubtedly be fondly remembered and missed by many.

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