The death last month of prominent “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey player Mark Pavelich was deemed a suicide, a Minnesota medical examiner said Monday.
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Anoka County said in a news release that Pavelich, 63, died of suffocation. His body was found on March 3 at Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Center, Minnesota.
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Pavelich was being treated at the home as part of a civil commitment for assaulting his neighbor in Cook County, Minnesota, in August 2019. Pavelich thought the man had put him a beer.
He was charged with serious battery, but Judge Michael Cuzzo found that he was unable to stand trial because he was mentally ill and dangerous. The judge said psychologists found that Pavelich suffered from delusions and paranoia. The experts also diagnosed him with a mild neurocognitive disorder due to a traumatic brain injury, probably related to repeated head injuries.
Pavelich, the speedy center for the Minnesota Iron Range, assisted in Mike Eruzione’s winning goal against the highly favored Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. That US team won the gold medal. Pavelich sold his gold medal for more than $ 250,000 in 2014, two years after his wife Kara died in an accidental fall.
Pavelich performed at Eveleth High School and was an All-America selection at the University of Minnesota Duluth before earning a spot on the Olympic team.
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The 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward spent five seasons with the New York Rangers and briefly played 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 February 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 hoping to see if I could skate with the teams that rented the ice,” former Minnesota and NHL player Pat Micheletti tweeted after Pavelich’s death. “Mark Pavelich always let me join the Eveleth guys. He taught me a lot about the game.”