Timeless Wonder Still Puts Safety First
Accomplished. Dedicated. Selfless. Ageless. All are words that describe a prominent figure in the world of ice hockey.
George Nagobads knew he wanted to become a doctor in high school. Following in his uncle’s footsteps, Nagobads had the nurturing personality that would allow him to become one of hockey’s most renowned physicians.
“I liked very much what [my uncle] did and I kind of felt that I would like to help sick people,” says the native of Riga, Latvia. “If I could help them, that would be nice.”
Earning his medical degree from Black Forest University in Tubingen, Germany, Nagobads pursued his hope of becoming a surgeon, but was pulled a different direction when he took a position at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Center.
“I was led into athletic medicine,” Nagobads says. “In 1958 I became team physician of the University of Minnesota Gophers hockey team. I enjoyed very much caring about the athletes and especially the hockey players and taking care of their injuries.”
Nagobads remained the University of Minnesota’s team physician, where he specialized in knee and shoulder injuries, until he retired in 1992. During his tenure in Minnesota, Nagobads and then head coach Herb Brooks were a part of three NCAA Championship teams.
Nagobads also saw great success at the national and Olympic levels, serving as team physician for 30 Olympic, National and Junior National teams from 1967 to 1990, including the 1980 Miracle on Ice team alongside Coach Brooks.
“The 1980 Olympic Games when we got the gold medal, that was something that was very, very special and very big,” he remembers. “There’s nothing that can compare to that.”
Hollywood even took interest in the Miracle on Ice and captured the dynamic nature of Nagobads in the 2004 movie “Miracle.”
Nagobads now resides in Edina, Minn., and remains a key contributor as part of the IIHF Medical Committee and USA Hockey’s Safety and Protective Equipment Committee.
“I just got, [in July], an assignment for medication and doping control for the U-18 National Championships in Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn.,” Nagobads says. “They keep me busy all the time with tournaments.”
No matter what is thrown at him, his colleagues and friends have yet to witness Nagobads slow down, even at age 86.
“He is ageless,” says Art Berglund, USA Hockey’s international department consultant and long-time friend. “And damn dependable.”
Pizza King Keeps His Hands In Hockey Pie
Long before Detroit earned the nickname of “Hockeytown,” Mike Ilitch was making his name and fortune in the pizza business.
These days, the Little Caesars name is as well known for its Peewee hockey as it is with pepperoni pizza.
Ilitch has been sponsoring youth hockey teams since 1968, long before he purchased the Detroit Red Wings from the Norris family for $8 million in 1982. Ten years later, he added the Detroit Tigers to his sports empire.
In both cases Ilitch turned around proud but struggling franchises through savvy business and marketing plans, clever drafting and free agent acquisitions. The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cup championships (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008) while the Tigers returned to the World Series in 2006.
The later success is near and dear to Ilitch’s heart. He was a shortstop in the Tigers’ organization, but when his call to the majors never came, he decided to try his hand in the restaurant business.
In 1959, he and his wife Marian had saved $10,000 and borrowed $15,000 more to get their idea off the ground. Today, Little Caesar’s is the world’s foremost take-out pizza chain, known across the United States and Canada.
Success has followed Ilitch both in business and in sports. His Little Caesar teams have an extraordinary tradition of winning, having captured numerous USA Hockey National Championship titles over its 30-year history, while boasting 27 alumni who are or have played in the NHL. Hundreds more have gone on to play college hockey.
In June 2003, the 74-year old Ilitch was selected to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder.
“By far, this is the biggest moment of my professional life,” Ilitch said. “It’s been an absolute labor of love.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
1998 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team
An All-American in both lacrosse and hockey at the University of New Hampshire, Colleen Coyne was one of the trailblazing women who won gold at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games.
A native of East Falmouth, Mass., Coyne played defense on four U.S. Women’s National Teams as well as two U.S. Women’s Select Teams.
At the Nagano Games, Coyne played in all six games and finished with an impressive plus-7 rating. She retired from competitive hockey soon afterward.
Coyne lives in Amesbury, Mass., and works as an Internet marketing consultant for a startup software company called HubSpot.
She was recently elected to the USA Hockey executive committee as an athlete representative, and also serves on the board of directors for Celebrities For Charities.
photos - USA Hockey, Michigan State University