One of the “Miracle on Ice” gold medals is about to go on the auction block.
Mark Pavelich, an Iron Ranger who helped Team USA beat the Soviets on the way to Olympic gold in 1980, is selling his medal through a Dallas auction house.
Bids, first online and by e-mail, will be taken beginning April 25 through Heritage Auctions, which bills itself as the world’s largest auctioneer of collectibles. Bidding then goes live and ends May 16.
There has been one other gold medal from that team auctioned, according to Heritage. That one was awarded to Mark Wells, who was dealing with health problems and sold it to a private buyer for $40,000. That buyer then commissioned Heritage, which sold it in 2010 for $310,700.
Bidding for Pavelich’s medal will start at $62,500, but Heritage sports director Chris Ivy sees $250,000 as “the floor” with “a lot of spirit bidding beyond that.”
“We were contacted by Mark, probably 18 months ago,” Ivy said. “He was curious about the value, initially.”
Bidding opened for Wells’ medal at $100,000, Ivy said, adding that the threefold final sales figure paid by the still-anonymous winner “was a pretty surprising and strong number.”
Ivy said Pavelich, 56, is not in any financial distress. “He’s doing fine,” Ivy said. “It’s something that he wants to help his kids out with education, the trust and that kind of thing.”
Pavelich earned two assists in the stirring semifinal victory in Lake Placid over the Soviet Union, one of them on the game-winning goal by fellow forward Mike Eruzione.
“He won it, he knows it and he doesn’t need the medal to prove that,” Eruzione, the team’s captain, said in an interview Thursday. “You hate to see it, but we are all grown men. Good luck to him, and I hope it means a lot of money.”
Eruzione said he expects other team members will join Wells and Pavelich in cashing in their medal, but as for himself: “I will never sell my medal as long as I’m alive.”
He said he sold off all of his other Olympic mementos, jerseys included, and keeps the medal in a bank safe deposit box because “it’s worth a lot of money. I can’t display it anywhere.”
The medals were produced by Tiffany & Co. The front displays a raised torch framed between the words “XIII Olympic Winter Games” and the Olympic rings. The reverse includes engraved lettering and in Pavelich’s case reads: “Ice Hockey, Mark Pavelich.” The original presentational case is included in the sale.
Heritage says that the auction winner also will receive a “letter of provenance” from Pavelich, verifying ownership.
The “Miracle on Ice” team’s feat has ranked among the greatest Olympic accomplishments in U.S. history, in particular because of the all-amateur team’s unthinkable victory over the heavily favored and well-financed Soviets.
Pavelich was among many Minnesotans on the team and its staff, which was coached by the legendary Herb Brooks.
Their story was turned into the Hollywood hit “Miracle” in 2004.
Pavelich is from Eveleth, skated for the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and played in the NHL mostly for the New York Rangers and then the Minnesota North Stars and finally the San Jose Sharks for two games in the 1991-1992 season. He now lives near Lutsen and works in land development.
Pavelich has been the most private of the “Miracle” team members. While Eruzione has made a living touring and speaking, and others make appearances from time to time, Pavelich has stayed out of the limelight. When Brooks died in a car crash in 2003, Pavelich showed up for the wake but was the only “Miracle” player who was not at the heavily attended funeral.
“He marches to the beat of a different drummer,” Eruzione said of the teammate he has rarely seen since Lake Placid. “But that’s why we love him.”
Pavelich’s wife of more than 17 years, Kara, died in September 2012 after falling at home from a second-story balcony that had no railing. She was 44.
Details of the auction can be found here.