An Olympic hockey star, “who reached the pinnacle of international sport and hit the depths of legal and psychological distress,” has died, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Mark Pavelich, who played on the “Miracle on Ice” hockey team was found dead Thursday at Eagle’s Healing Nest, a residential treatment center in central Minnesota. The cause of death had not been disclosed. “We are saddened to hear about the passing of 1980 Olympic gold medalist Mark Pavelich,” USA Hockey said in a statement, per the AP. “We extend our deepest condolences to Mark’s family & friends. [He is] forever a part of hockey history.” Pavelich, 63, was being treated at the home as part of a civil commitment after he attacked his neighbor during a 2019 fishing trip, per the Star Tribune. Pavelich erroneously suspected that the neighbor had spiked his beer.
A judge ruled that Pavelich was mentally ill and dangerous, making him unfit to stand trial. Family and friends have suspected that Pavelich suffered from CTE, a degenerative brain disease associated with sports-related head trauma. Pavelich was a center on the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. He assisted teammate Mike Eruzione’s game-winning goal in a match against the heavily favored Soviet Union team, per ESPN. He later played in the NHL for the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, and Minnesota North Stars. “His determination, passion and dazzling playmaking ability earned him the adoration of Rangers fans during his five-year tenure in New York,” the New York Rangers organization said in a statement. (Read more Miracle on Ice stories.)