Mark Pavelich, 1980 Olympic Hockey Star, Dead at 63

He played a crucial role in the "Miracle on Ice"

Mark Pavelich
Mark Pavelich of Team USA in action during the 1980 exhibition game against the Soviet Union on February 9, 1980 at Madison Square Garden.
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

The 1980 Winter Olympics featured one of the greatest upsets in sports history — the “Miracle on Ice” in which the United States’ hockey team defeated their counterparts from the Soviet Union, who had previously dominated the sport. An ESPN report on the game’s 40th anniversary accurately described it as “the most famous hockey game ever played.”

Now, one of the stars of that team has died at the age of 63. The StarTribune‘s Paul Walsh reports that Mark Pavelich was found dead on Thursday in central Minnesota; the cause of death is currently undetermined. Pavelich hailed from Eveleth, Minnesota, and played hockey at the college level at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

He played a prominent role in Team USA’s Olympic victory over the Soviet Union, contributing a pair of assists in the game, including one on the game winner. He went on to play for his Team USA coach Herb Brooks in the NHL, including stints at the both the New York Rangers and Minnesota North Stars. During his time with the Rangers, he scored 5 goals in a game against the Hartford Whalers — a feat no American player has equaled in the NHL.

As Walsh notes in the article, Pavelich died at a treatment center, where he had been receiving treatment following an arrest for attacking a neighbor in 2019. At the time, his family expressed concern that he was suffering the effects of CTE, which has been known to cause dramatic personality changes for those affected by it.

Pavelich’s legacy includes a host of unforgettable moments in the sport — as well as quieter moments that have left those closest to him and those who only knew him from his playing days mourning his loss.

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