Mark Pavelich’s teammates from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” squad believed the former Rangers center was doing well at the Minnesota mental-health treatment facility where he’d resided since October until his death last week.
The Olympic gold medalist had been living at the Eagle’s Healing Nest rehabilitation center in Sauk Centre, Minn. after he initially was committed to a psychiatric hospital while facing charges of felony assault against a neighbor in 2019.
“He seemed optimistic. He seemed like he was wanting to put this behind him,” 1980 Olympic teammate Bill Baker, who spent time with Pavelich in February, told the New York Times. “He seemed like Pav. Pav was Pav.”
Pavelich turned 63 on Feb. 28, and many of his former Olympic teammates sent along birthday wishes via a group text chain. He was found dead four days later by a facility staffer. No cause of death has been released.
“Maybe it was a heart attack. We just don’t know at this point,” added 1980 Olympic captain Mike Eruzione, whose game-winning goal in the Americans’ upset against the Soviet Union was assisted by Pavelich.
Pavelich’s sister, Jean Gevik, wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday that her brother’s brain had been sent for analysis for signs of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by head trauma, adding she has “no doubt it will be riddled with disease.”
“This is an unbearable time for my family,” Gevik wrote. “The news is absolutely devastating. The last flicker of Mark’s candle went out. Way too much trauma and way too much hurt. A life cut short.
“Mark actually died years ago when he lost his beloved [wife] Kara. Now they’re together again. Soulmates forever.”
Kara Pavelich died in 2012 after a fall from an unfinished second-story balcony being added to their Minnesota home.
Former Olympic linemate Buzz Schneider told the Times that he also visited with Pavelich last fall.
“He felt safe around us,” Schneider said. “It was a family.”