Miracle on Ice Olympian Mark Pavelich's Cause of Death Revealed

Mark Pavelich, a former ice hockey player who was part of the "Miracle on Ice" team, was found dead in early March. A medical examiner has now provided the cause of death. Pavelich died by suicide.

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Anoka County, Minnesota, issued a release on Monday and said that the 63-year-old died of asphyxia. He was found dead at the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Pavelich was undergoing treatment at the home as part of a civil commitment for assaulting his neighbor in 2019. The former hockey player had accused the man of spiking his beer.

Pavelich and his neighbor had returned from a fishing trip when the assault occurred. The former hockey star told authorities that he believed his neighbor had "spiked" his beer. He allegedly grabbed a metal pole and assaulted the man.

The victim was found with a bruised kidney and several broken bones, including a fractured vertebra and two cracked ribs. He was reportedly in shock with an obvious disfigurement of his leg. A judge ordered an evaluation to be done on Pavelich, writing that "there is reason to doubt [Pavelich’s] competency."

Authorities arrested Pavelich at his Lutsen home. They also seized several weapons, including an illegally modified shotgun and two guns with filed-off serial numbers. Authorities charged Pavelich in State District Court with second- and third-degree assault and two counts of firearm possession with a missing or altered serial number.

Judge Michael Cuzzo ruled that Pavelich was "incompetent to stand trial," saying that he was mentally ill and dangerous to others. The judge stated that psychologists determined that the former hockey star was suffering from delusions and paranoia. Pavelich received a diagnosis of mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injuries.

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Pavelich played an important role on the 1980 United States men's hockey team that won the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics. He was responsible for assisting Mike Eruzione's game-winning goal against the heavily-favored Soviet Union in the tournament semifinals. The United States team went on to win the gold medal. In 2014, Pavelich sold his gold medal for $250,000.

Following the trip to the Olympics and the gold medal, Pavelich spent seven years in the NHL. He placed for the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars, and San Jose Sharks. Pavelich ended his career with 137 goals and 192 assists in 355 regular-season games.