Mark Pavelich, a player on the 1980 U.S. ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey team, dies at 63

In this Feb. 21, 2015, file photo, Jack O'Callahan and Mark Pavelich of the 1980 U.S. ice hockey team.
Jack O’Callahan, left, and Mark Pavelich, players on the 1980 U.S. hockey team, talk during a reunion in February 2015.
(Mike Groll / Associated Press)

A member of the “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey team has died at a treatment center for mental illness.

Officials in Anoka County, Minn., confirmed Friday that 63-year-old Mark Pavelich died at the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre, Minn., on Thursday morning. The cause and manner of death are still pending.

“We are saddened to hear about the passing of 1980 Olympic gold medalist Mark Pavelich,” USA Hockey said in a statement. “We extend our deepest condolences to Mark’s family & friends. [He is] forever a part of hockey history.”

Pavelich was undergoing treatment at the home as part of a civil commitment for assaulting his neighbor in Cook County, Minn., in August 2019, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Pavelich thought the man had spiked his beer.


He was charged with felony assault but Judge Michael Cuzzo found he was incompetent to stand trial because he was mentally ill and dangerous. According to the judge’s order from December 2019, a psychologist found Pavelich was suffering from delusions and paranoia. Another psychologist found he suffered from a mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury, likely related to repeated head injuries.

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Pavelich starred at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and assisted Mike Eruzione on the winning goal for the U.S. against the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. That U.S. team went on to win the gold medal.

Pavelich spent five seasons with the NHL’s New York Rangers and played briefly for the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. He sold his gold medal for more than $250,000 in 2014, two years after his wife, Kara, died in an accidental fall.

Pavelich’s sister, Jean Gevik, didn’t immediately respond to a message.

The Rangers said in a statement they were saddened by Pavelich’s death.

“His determination, passion and dazzling playmaking ability earned him the adoration of Rangers fans during his five-year tenure in New York,“ the team said.