Mark Pavelich, an Olympic hockey legend of "Miracle on Ice" fame, died by suicide last month at age 63, according to details in a new cause-of-death examination provided by the Anoka County Medical Examiner's Office.
Early on the morning of March 4, Pavelich died in a residential treatment facility in Sauk Centre, Minn., according to the medical examiner's report.
Pavelich, a native of Minnesota's Iron Range, is known to most for his role in Team USA's "Miracle on Ice" defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics before the team went on to win gold. Pavelich assisted on Mike Eruzione's goal that won the game. He went on to play for the NHL, where he scored 137 goals and 192 assists throughout his professional career. In 2004, Disney cemented the "Miracle" team's legacy with a film of the same name, with actor Chris Koch portraying Pavelich.
Pavelich's story took a dark turn after his hockey career ended. In August 2019, he was charged in Cook County District Court with beating his neighbor, James T. Miller, after the two went fishing. A judge later ruled that Pavelich was mentally ill and dangerous, making him incompetent to stand trial, and committed him to a state-operated secure treatment facility in St. Peter. He was later transferred to Sauk Centre.
Two clinical psychologists who examined Pavelich diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other conditions. Family and friends have said they believe that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy — commonly known as CTE — caused by repeated blows to the head while playing hockey.
Pavelich's family announced after his death they would have his brain examined for signs of CTE.
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036