Mark Pavelich, a member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team who spent the bulk of his seven-year NHL career with the Rangers, was found dead at a treatment facility in central Minnesota.
The 63-year-old died at Eagle’s Healing Nest, where he was receiving mental health treatment, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Pavelich was under civil commitment after assaulting his neighbor with a four-foot metal pipe in August 2019.
Police were called to Pavelich’s residence around 8:30 a.m. Thursday after a reported death. No one had seen Pavelich since 8 p.m. the previous day.
The cause of death was not immediately known.
Pavelich starred for the U.S. squad during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., as part of “The Coneheads” line, collecting an assist on Mike Eruzione’s goal that stood as the winner in a semifinal round upset over the vaunted Soviet Union team. The Americans went on to beat Finland for the gold medal.
“We are saddened to hear about the passing of 1980 Olympic gold medalist Mark Pavelich,” USA Hockey tweeted. “We extend our deepest condolences to Mark’s family & friends. “Forever a part of hockey history.”
The 5-foot-7 Minnesota native went on to a seven-year NHL career that began in 1981 with the Rangers and his former Olympic coaches, Herb Brooks and Craig Patrick. On a team with big personalities like Ron Duguay and Ron Greschner, the quiet Pavelich was hard-nosed and skilled. He centered Duguay in the winger’s lone 40-goal season and recorded 133 goals in 341 regular season games over five seasons with the Blueshirts. His five-goal game on Feb. 23, 1983, is still a franchise record, now shared with Mika Zibanejad.
“The New York Rangers are saddened to learn of the passing of Mark Pavelich,” the Rangers said in a statement. “His determination, passion, and dazzling playmaking ability earned him the adoration of Rangers fans during his five-year tenure in New York. Mark helped inspire a nation through the integral role he played on the ‘Miracle on Ice’ team in the 1980 Winter Olympics., Our thoughts are with Mark’s loved ones during this difficult time.”
His NHL career also included stops with the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks.
Pavelich’s post-hockey life was one of legal, personal and mental issues. His wife, Kara, died in 2012 at the age of 44 after falling off a balcony. In 2014, he famously sold his gold medal for $262,900, splitting the sale to help his adult daughter. He had run-ins with neighbors and family which eventually led to his incarceration for the 2019 assault in which he accused a neighbor of “spiking” his beer.
In April 2020, family and friends told The Post they were hopeful Pavelich was getting the help he needed.
“Mark doesn’t want to be the poster child for mental health,” former Rangers teammate Barry Beck said. “But we would like to see him be able to tell his story, and not have someone else tell it for him.”