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Former 'Miracle on Ice,' Gophers team physician George 'Doc' Nagobads dies at age 101

An immigrant from Latvia, Nagobads worked with the Minnesota Gophers hockey program for 34 seasons and served as Team USA's doctor in five Winter Olympics, including the Miracle on Ice.

Penn State vs Minnesota
George "Doc" Nagobads, who was the team's doctor for 34 seasons, was honored by the Minnesota Gophers during a game vs. Penn State in November 2021, when he turned 100.
Brace Hemmelgarn / Gopher Sports

MINNEAPOLIS – In November of 2021, dozens of well-known names from the Minnesota hockey scene gathered for lunch at a country club in the suburbs for a birthday party. George “Doc” Nagobads, as he hit the century mark. Even at 100, the legendary trainer for the Minnesota Gophers and the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team was the same man so many of his former players remembered from decades earlier, when he was in the trenches helping players deal with the bumps and bruises that are so much a part of this game.

In the early morning hours of Friday, March 31, 2023, Nagobads died at age 101.

“A gentleman beyond reproach who touched the lives of literally thousands of young hockey players at the youth, collegiate, international and Olympic levels over the past 65 years,” wrote legendary Gopher and former Olympic coach Murray Williamson in an email to friends, noting that Nagobads’ time with the Gophers began when John Mariucci was their coach. “May God rest his soul as he joins his wife Velta in everlasting peace.”

Born in Latvia, Nagobads and his family fled to Germany during World War II and he earned his medical degree at university there. He came to the United States in 1951 and began working with the University of Minnesota five years later, eventually spending 34 seasons with the Gophers and being a part of three NCAA title teams under head coach Herb Brooks.

The 1980 Games were among five Olympics where Nagobads was Team USA’s doctor, and his work with the players who would earn a gold medal in Lake Placid is forever remembered after Nagobads was portrayed by Kenneth Welsh in the 2004 movie “Miracle.”


“He lived a pretty good life and he was sharp as a tack to the very end,” said Rob McClanahan, who was a player under Nagobads’ care with the Gophers and in Lake Placid. “He was full of life lessons. At the U he would give us the talk at the beginning of each year about behaving ourselves and not getting out too far over our skis. He was just phenomenal and he loved and respected everybody. It didn’t matter if you were a fourth-liner or a top player. He treated everybody the same.”

In 1980, it has been widely reported that Brooks wanted Team USA’s forwards to take short shifts of 40 seconds or less, to preserve their energy for the crunch time of the third period. Nagobads, stopwatch in hand, timed each line’s shift during the Americans’ games, and later admitted that he didn’t get to watch much hockey, as he was focused on the timepiece.

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Before retiring in 1992, Nagobads also worked with the Minnesota Fighting Saints and Minnesota North Stars. He has been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and the M Club Hall of Fame at the U of M.

"People say that Herbie was a student of the game, well, Nagy was a student of medicine," McClanahan said. "He never stopped learning. He was a beauty."

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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