40 seconds of fame

Dr. George V. Nagobads into U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

26.10.2010
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George Nagobads accepts the Paul Loicq Award from IIHF President René Fasel and long-standing IIHF Council Member Walter Bush. Photo: Jukka Rautio / Europhoto

Behind the 1980 U.S. Miracle on Ice gold, there are hundreds of stories and anecdotes that have emerged. But one that always leaves a lasting impression is that of the team physician, Dr. George V. Nagobads, who stood steadfast on the sidelines with his eyes glued to a stopwatch.

Just what was he doing during hockey’s most-famous 60 minutes?

The day before the game, head coach Herb Brooks told Nagobads that the only hope to beat the dominant Soviet machine was to keep the players’ legs fresh – this meant shifts no longer than 40 seconds for every player. So it fell on Nagobads to time each shift to make sure that no player stayed on the ice too long. He would yell to Brooks ’30 seconds…35 seconds…40 seconds Herb, get them off the ice.”

Nagobads jokes that he didn't see a minute of the Miracle on Ice because his eyes were glued to the watch. His role with the stopwatch in 1980 was one of the many moments re-lived when he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Buffalo, New York last Thursday.

In total, Nagobads served as the team physician for 29 U.S. national teams during his 54-year career. The 89-year old is now a two-time member of the U.S. Hall of Fame, having been already inducted as a part of the Miracle on Ice team in 2003. But last Thursday, it was all about his individual accomplishments for his efforts with Minnesota-based teams and his impressive experience with USA Hockey teams.

"To get in with the (1980) team was nice and fine, but it's not the same," said Nagobads. "This is the thing, the personal induction. I was very surprised and very proud. It's been many years of good times."

Thursday’s induction is actually the second time that he has been individually recognized for his efforts in the sport. In 2003, Nagobads received the IIHF’s Paul Loicq Award during the 2003 World Championship. In fact, it was only recently that Nagobads retired as an IIHF Medical Supervisor, but it doesn’t mean that he’s stepped down all together as he can still be seen around the globe talking about health and safety issues in ice hockey.

The good doctor most recently worked at the last World U20 Championship in Saskatoon, where he could be seen in the halls around the arena sharing stories and, of course, working on behalf of the IIHF.

Nagobads, a Latvian native, immigrated to the U.S. in 1951. While working at the University of Minnesota Health Center, he was asked to help look after the Golden Gopher hockey team. So in 1956, one of the most illustrious careers in USA Hockey history began. His first international tournament was with Minnesota players in 1967 and skyrocketed from there, to eventually include five Olympics.

Naturally, his efforts at the 1980 Olympics are what will stand out for most people, but Nagobads maintains that while the Miracle Moment was definitely one he’ll never forget, there’s more to the man than the stopwatch.

“All those years, we had glory and we had defeats,” says Nagobads. “But we also managed to have many days of fun and laughter. Those things, you always remember.”

Notebook:
  • Nagobads was inducted to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as part of its 2010 class. The other inductees were Art Berglund, Derian Hatcher, Kevin Hatcher and Jeremy Roenick.
  • A sell-out of 400 people were on hand for the induction ceremony at Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, home of the Buffalo Sabres and 2010 World U20 Championship venue.
  • Nagobads received the Paul Loicq Award in 2003 that is presented annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the IIHF and international ice hockey.
  • With the Class of 2010, there are now 148 enshrined members in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The Hall was established in 1973.

With files from the Tri-City Herald


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