Mark Pavelich, a New York Rangers alumni best known for the role he played in the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympics, has passed away. Pavelich was 63. No cause of death has been reported.
“The New York Rangers are saddened to learn of the passing of Mark Pavelich,” the Rangers said in a statement. “His determination, passion, and dazzling playmaking ability earned him the adoration of Rangers fans during his five-year tenure in New York.”
We are saddened to hear about the passing of 1980 Olympic gold medalist Mark Pavelich. We extend our deepest condolences to Mark’s family & friends.— USA Hockey (@usahockey) March 5, 2021
Forever a part of hockey history. pic.twitter.com/xS04DMGtLd
Pavelich won Olympic Gold at Lake Placid in 1980 and played seven seasons in the NHL. The vast majority of his 355 career games as a Ranger. In 341 games on Broadway, scored 133 goals and earned 185 assists. He played for the Minnesota North Stars in 1986-1987 and for the San Jose Sharks in 1991-92.
Tragically, Pavelich struggled with mental illness towards the end of his life. His friends and family believe that his health deteriorated as a result of CTE caused by repeated blows to the head sustained during his hockey career. He was found dead in the state-operated mental health treatment facility he had been committed to after beating his neighbor during a fishing trip in August 2019.
From Paul Walsh of The Star Tribune:
In recent years, family and friends have said, they watched the public-averse Pavelich become confused, paranoid and borderline threatening. They said they came to believe that he suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy — commonly known as CTE — caused by repeated blows to the head while playing hockey as a tenacious, undersized forward.
Pavelich’s sister, Jean Gevik, told the Star Tribune soon after the assault that the family is convinced that “all the concussions and the blows he had in the NHL” left him suffering from CTE, a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to erratic behavior and deaths among hockey and football players and others in sports that inflict trauma to the head.
It’s heartwrenching to read about the tragedies of Pavelich’s life but what happened to him after he left the ice demands our attention as consumers of this sport. Clearly, there are questions that need answers here in regards to his health and his passing. Maybe there’s something to be learned here. Maybe asking questions about CTE and mental health are an important and necessary part of remembering what Pavelich gave to this game and to this country.
Rest in peace, Mr. Pavelich.