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Death of former Olympian, Lutsen resident Mark Pavelich, ruled suicide

Mark Pavelich on the ice with the New York Rangers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Mark Pavelich on the ice with the New York Rangers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A Minnesota medical examiner has ruled that last month’s death of “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey standout Mark Pavelich was a suicide.

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Anoka County said in an April 5 news release that the 63-year-old Pavelich died of asphyxia. His body was found March 3 at the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

Pavelich was undergoing treatment at the home as part of a civil commitment for assaulting his neighbor on Deer Yard Lake in Lutsen in August 2019. Pavelich thought the man had spiked his beer.

Pavelich was charged with felony assault but was found incompetent to stand trial. Judge Michael Cuzzo said psychologists found that Pavelich was suffering from delusions and paranoia. Experts also diagnosed him with a mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury, likely related to repeated head injuries.

Pavelich, the speedy center from the Iron Range, assisted on Mike Eruzione’s winning goal against the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. That U.S. team went on to win the gold medal.

Pavelich starred at Eveleth High School and was an All-America selection at the University of Minnesota Duluth before earning a spot on the Olympic team.

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward spent five seasons with the New York Rangers and played briefly for the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks, finishing with 137 goals and 192 assists in 355 NHL regular-season games. He had a five-goal game for the Rangers on Feb. 23, 1983, in an 11-3 victory over Hartford.

“As a kid growing up in Hibbing I used to go to the arena and hang out with gear in hand waiting to see if I could skate with the teams that rented the ice,” former Minnesota and NHL player Pat Micheletti tweeted after Pavelich died. “Mark Pavelich always let me join with the Eveleth guys. He taught me so much about the game.”

Cook County residents who knew Pavelich have reported that the former hockey star preferred solitude and enjoyed fishing and hunting on the North Shore.