NMU Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. John Lehtinen

NMU Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. John Lehtinen

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- The Northern Michigan University Sports Hall of Fame will induct four new members on Saturday, April 26, in the Great Lakes Room of the University Center. The event will once again be held in conjunction with the Student-Athlete Awards Banquet. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. and program will follow.

The second inductee into the class of 2014 is Dr. John Lehtinen. Lehtinen has served as the team physician for Northern Michigan athletics for over 32 years and has been a physician for the NMU Olympic Training site. He has also served as a volunteer assistant coach for the NMU hockey program since 2006.

Lehtinen has been a sports medicine physician for 40 years.  He also practices Addiction Medicine and Occupational Medicine at Marquette General Hospital and is the only Board Certified practicing Addiction Medicine physician in the Upper Peninsula.  Dr. Lehtinen is also the Director Emeritus of MGH’s Family Practice Residency.

Lehtinen began his association with Northern Michigan in 1980 and became the team physician for NMU athletics during the 1981-82 academic year.

“I find it challenging to take care of people who have passion and motivation for what they do,” said Lehtinen. “Working with kids that want to get better and want to do the best they can makes me want to play whatever role I can to assist them. Keeping them on the floor, field or on the ice is enjoyable.”

In 1985, Lehtinen became the chief medical officer and head physician for the Northern Michigan Olympic Training Site. From there, he was invited to be a physician for the 1989 Olympic Festival in Oklahoma City, and also worked as a physician for the 1990 Olympic Festival in Minneapolis.

From that experience Lehtinen got the opportunity to work the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba, in 1991. He continued his work with the Olympics, serving as a team physician at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

In 1996, Lehtinen was named the head physician for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta and served as a team physician for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. He has also served on the Sports Medicine Committee for the United States Olympic Committee helping with the Pan American games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and the World Youth Games in Moscow, Russia.

Lehtinen was the recipient of the 1996 Northern Michigan University President’s Award for Distinguished Citizenship and in 1999 received the Michigan State Medical Society’s Community Service Award.

When asked about what Lehtinen meant to the NMU hockey program and NMU Intercollegiate Athletics, hockey coach Walt Kyle spoke very highly of his involvement and dedication to the Wildcats.

“Doc, as we know him, has been an integral part of Northern athletics for as long as I can remember,” said Kyle. “Anyone who has been associated with any athletic event has seen him quietly strolling the sidelines or standing behind the bench with almost any sport. What they don't see is what he does behind the scenes that makes him truly invaluable.”

“Doc has been with me as a team doctor and ‘volunteer coach’ from my very first day as a coach here at NMU. He has put many athletes on the ice when I thought it would be impossible for them to play. He has been a listening ear to players when they have needed one, and a stern and honest voice when they needed to hear a message from someone other than a coach. There have also been many nights where Doc has played psychologist to a coach and given strong and solid advise, and I know he has served not only as a great colleague to me but is a true friend.” 

“Northern Michigan Athletics would not be the same if Doc had not been here for all these years. He has not only successfully treated athletes and helped programs win, but he has made the coaches and players around him better at their jobs and better people. Few programs in the country are as blessed as we are to have someone like Doc and his induction to the NMU Hall of Fame is a long overdue honor.”

“Words cannot express all the thanks to Dr. Lehtinen for his contributions both as a physician and volunteer coach over so many years,” said retired NMU Senior Associate Athletic Director Steve Reed. “Doc has provided an invaluable service to NMU student-athletes and their programs for the last 32 years. He also has provided services to Marquette junior hockey, Marquette baseball and softball and other sports organizations both as a physician and a coach. He has always been available whenever the need was there no matter the time. He is respected by all who have been fortunate enough to work with him over the years and is a terrific person, family man and a person I have always enjoyed working with.”

“Dr. Lehtinen is most deserving of his selection into the NMU Athletics Hall of Fame,” said Athletic Training Coordinator and Faculty Athletics Representative Julie Rochester. “I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Lehtinen for nearly 25 years, as he served and continues to serve as the NMU Team Physician. Dr. Lehtinen’s expertise as a sports medicine physician has allowed NMU to provide outstanding medical services to our student-athletes for over 30 years. In addition, the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Lehtinen with NMU athletics, has afforded countless educational experiences to NMU’s athletic trainers and athletic training students. We are all better practitioners because of his mentoring.”

Lehtinen is a native of Hancock, Mich. and graduated from Michigan Tech University in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree and 1970 with a master’s in biological sciences. He went on to attend Wayne State University School of Medicine where he earned his Doctor of Medicine in 1984.  

Lehtinen and his wife Linda have two sons, Rob and John, who are both Northern Michigan alumni. The Sports Hall of Fame and Student-Athlete Awards Banquet is sponsored by Superior Oasis, Hit Trophy and Downtown Eye Care.

Photos: Dr. John Lehtinen