“Miracle on Ice” hockey star Mark Pavelich has been moved from the state’s high-security mental health hospital to a less restrictive facility as he awaits hearings on charges that he assaulted a neighbor.
Pavelich was once found to be “mentally ill and dangerous” by a judge in a civil commitment case, but he later began responding to treatment at St. Peter Regional Treatment Center. He was headed to a nonprofit facility in Sauk Centre — Eagle’s Healing Nest, family and friends said. The center offers greater interaction among clients, and amenities such as horseback riding.
Pavelich, 62, of Lutsen, is charged with second- and third-degree assault as well as weapons violations. A criminal complaint alleges he beat a neighbor with a metal pole after a fishing trip last summer, accusing the neighbor of “spiking his beer.” The judge cleared the way for the move last week by resetting Pavelich’s bail — at one point $500,000 — to $20,000 provided he followed conditions in the civil proceedings.
Attorneys for Pavelich argued for lower bail, saying that Pavelich has been compliant with doctors, is not a flight risk and does not pose a significant risk to public safety — standard factors that courts consider.
The “mentally ill and dangerous” determination is being suspended while Pavelich continues to comply with treatment under the direction of doctors, said his civil attorney Carolyn Bruno.
“It’s still hanging over his head,” Bruno said. “If he were to not comply, he would have to go back to St. Peter.”
Criminal defense attorney Chris Stocke said Pavelich is “doing very, very well with his treatment.”
Family and friends said the allegations against Pavelich didn’t fit with the man they said was once a generous introvert who lived a quiet life on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Pavelich and his U.S. teammates won gold in the 1980 Olympics and Pavelich played several seasons in the NHL. In recent years, family and friends said, they watched him become confused, paranoid and borderline threatening. They said they came to believe that he suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused by repeated blows to the head playing hockey.
While Pavelich had refused treatment following his criminal charges at one point, two medical doctors evaluated him in mid-June and found he had made gains.
Pavelich’s sister Jean Gevik said the setting at Eagle’s Healing Nest is like a home — similar to a proposed ranch her brother and others hope to start for people struggling with CTE and other mental health problems.
“Mark is doing unbelievably well,” Gevik said, adding that she hoped to reunite him with his dog soon. “He has reconnected with many friends and family and we’re all saying the same thing: Our prayers were answered.”
Pavelich’s next hearing in his criminal case is scheduled for mid-October.