If you watch TV footage of the celebration on the ice after Team USA beat the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, you might see a smiling man with white hair give me a big hug.
That man was Dr. Visvaldis “George” Nagobads, our team physician.
Today, Dr. Nagobads, 93, remains in great health. He is vibrant and living in Minneapolis.
Dr. Nagobads took particular joy in our victory over the Russian Bear. For back in 1941, while he was living in his native Latvia, and attending college, the Soviet Union invaded his country. George Nagobads soon fled Latvia.
George Nagobads became a physician. In 1951 he moved to the U.S. where he completed a surgical residency. It was also in 1951, and in the U.S., that he married Velta, a woman he had met in Germany.
Dr. Nagobads and Velta were like second parents to me.
I lived with Dr. Nagobads and Velta for four months leadingup the Lake Placid games, starting in September 1979, when Team USA returned from our European exhibition tour, and through to early January.
During those four months, the Olympic team was based in Minneapolis, where the Nagobads family lived.
While in our final tune up in Minneapolis, most of the players stayed in a local apartment complex. Others stayed with families in the area.
Herb Brooks knew all his players well. He knew us as athletes and people, which, really, are inseparable and intertwined. He knew that I came from close and warm family of eight kids. He knew that my mother had passed away from cancer fewer than two years prior. He knew I missed her, my father, and my brothers and sisters.
Herb arranged for me to live with Dr. Nagobads and Velda and their children. It worked out great.
Dr. Nagobads and Velda were loving and kind. They reinforced in me, what my parents had taught and shown in their example – that love and kindness nurtures untold good and benefits the world in incalculable ways.
From Dr. Nagobads, particularly, I learned the importance of patience and the value of studying and gaining an understanding of a situation before committing and making a decision.
Dr. Nagobads emphasized the importance of preparation –thorough and total preparation, and total commitment to a goal.
My success as a person – as a husband, father, hockey player, and business professional – is owed in a significant way to Dr. George Nagobads
Dr. Nagobads and Velda were married for 54 years, until her death in 2005.
Dr. Nagobads and I remain close. We talk on the phone frequently. I see him in person when I get out to Minnesota.
Dr. George Nagobads was and remains to me an important mentor, one for whom I am immensely grateful.