How They Met: Peter Taglianetti, 57 and Dr. Vonda Wright, 54

Peter and Vonda were brought together by sports, he a retired pro hockey player and she an orthopedic sports surgeon, and now have a happily blended family.

When did you meet?

Vonda: Sports injuries paved the way for us to meet! Peter Taglianetti and I met when we were 42 and 45 and now we’re 54 and 57 with a blended family of 6! He is a retired pro hockey player and I am an orthopedic surgeon and, as a banged-up aging athlete, some would say he was smart to marry his surgeon. 

I am an orthopedic sports surgeon and was serving as the head football doctor for the NCAA Division I University of Pittsburgh Panther football team when two of Peter’s sons, Jon and Andrew, were playing for PITT.  As a sports doc, I knew of the “Taglianetti” sports legacy in Pittsburgh as Peter is an NHL 2x Stanley Cup Champion who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and he would come to football practice to watch the boys play.  

I had wondered who the handsome man was watching practice…but never met him until early in the 2008 season when both of his sons were injured at one time…of course this means calling the parents. 

Peter: Yes, but when I would come watch Jon and Andrew practice you would ignore me trying to talk to you.

Vonda: Of course I did…I was working. Kind of hard to talk on a football field.

“Thank goodness you swaggered over since apparently, unbeknownst to us, our friends were trying to set us up a year before on a blind date and you stood me up!”

Where did you meet?

Peter: We officially met for the first time when I was tail-gating before a game and saw her walking through the parking lot to work. She had been featured in the “Social Seen” column of the Pittsburgh newspaper in a hot red dress and of course I was compelled to stop her as she walked by and tell her…after a couple 12oz cans of courage. 

Vonda: I remember this like a video in my brain but don’t remember much about the ballgame that day. Thank goodness you swaggered over since apparently, unbeknownst to us, our friends were trying to set us up a year before on a blind date and you stood me up! 

What were you thinking before you met? Were you looking for someone to be with? 

Peter and Vonda:  Haha

Vonda: NO — in fact, on our first date after Peter asked me, “What are you looking for in a relationship?” (Yes, that is Peter’s first date small talk.) He told me straight out he was never getting married again. I think we were both looking for great company and were intrigued to meet because of our connection through sports.  

What were your first impressions? 

Vonda: Truthfully, socially I am a little shy and have never been entirely comfortable with the preamble to dating (the pick-up) or early dating, but Peter has an easy laugh, is a great “small-talker,” has a lot of good stories, and of course is blindingly handsome so initially I was a little swept away. It helped, however, that I knew his sons so well and that they were great young men. I thought that anyone who could raise such good people had to be good himself.  

Creating a Blended Family

Where/when were you married?

Vonda: After our first date and Peter’s proclamation he would never marry again, we continually grew our relationship, blended our families (even the grandparents) and married 4 years later on a beautiful sunny day in May on the first tee of the Pittsburgh Field Club (where I swear some of our guests were side-glancing to see how the golfers were doing during the ceremony). All of our children were in the ceremony and people from all phases of our lives gathered together like one big happy family. It was amazing.

I always tease Peter that as a retired professional hockey player with a history of multiple surgeries it was not only a lovely decision to marry me but a strategic decision to marry his orthopedic surgeon. 

Is this the sort person you were expecting to be with?  

Vonda: I tend to be attracted to big, strong, athletic men with a deep-thinking side and the ability to draw me out of my shell socially. Peter has these qualities plus he is the least selfish person I have ever met (besides my own father) and for me, that was a refreshing entrée into a mature relationship. We both realize that we come to this relationship as whole people and the beauty is we don’t try to change each other. 

Peter: Ahhh, see above, “never getting married again.”

Different but Deeply Committed

How are the two of you different?

Vonda: In nearly every way and yet we share a deep-seated commitment to each other, to our multi-generational family, our friends and have both enjoyed success in career tempered by extreme hardship…these things serve as a foundation and allows us to accept and extend grace to each other as the differences remain. Frankly, I would not want Peter to be just like me.

What is the best thing about your relationship?

Vonda: We have worked really hard to create this blended life together and we both feel safe knowing that we have each other’s back and that it takes each of us working hard to keep this working.

How do you spend your weekends together?

Vonda: We are really busy during the week and so Friday nights are our favorite times when the workweek is over but it is not quite the weekend…it is “found” time for us to sit back, relax and have a great dinner.  

Relationship Advice

What is the best relationship advice you have received or given?

Vonda: If both partners are focused on loving each other first and prioritizing each other over being “me first” while NOT trying to change the person they’re in the relationship with, they will have a firm foundation. It doesn’t mean it is always easy but from this foundation it is worth the effort.

Vonda Wright, MD, MS, Orthopedic Surgeon. Chief: Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute Sports Medicine. Director: PRIMA-Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes. Author: Fitness After 40 and Guide to Thrive: 4 Steps to Body, Brains and Bliss.

Check out Dr. Vonda’s podcast Hot for Your Health here.

www.drvondawright.com  Twitter: @DrVondaWright



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