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1980 USA Olympic Ice Hockey Star Dies

United States Olympic hockey star Mark Pavelich was found dead Thursday in a residential treatment center, the Minneapolis Star News reported Friday.

Police said emergency personnel were sent to the Eagle's Healing Nest after Pavelich had not been seen for most of a day. There was no initial indication of the cause of death.

Pavelich, who turned 63 last week, had been receiving mental health treatment under civil commitment for a violent assault on a neighbor in 2019.

A hockey star for Eveleth High School and then the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Pavelich was a key member of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic Team. He assisted on Mike Eruzione's winning goal in the legendary upset of the Soviet Union, and scored a goal and had six assists in the Olympic tournament, which Team USA won by defeating Finland in the gold medal game.

Pavelich went on to play with the New York Rangers for five seasons, followed by brief stints with the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. The scrappy, 5-foot-8 forward last played professionally in 1992, after scoring 137 goals with 192 assists in 355 career games.

USA Hockey on Friday issued a statement of condolences, referring to Pavelich as "Forever a part of hockey history."

The Star Tribune reported, according to friends and family, Pavelich had become increasingly confused, paranoid and borderline threatening In recent years with those close to him believing that he may have been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- commonly known as CTE -- caused by repeated blows to the head. Yet, Pavelich was not among the former players who filed claims with the NHL and gained a settlement with the league in 2018.

The Star Tribune reported that his wife, Kara, died in an accidental fall from a balcony at their home in 2012, and several years later, Pavelich sold his gold medal for more than $250,000 in an auction.

In August 2019 Pavelich was charged with beating his neighbor, James T. Miller, after an argument when the two went fishing. Miller, 63, was treated for cracked ribs, a bruised kidney and other injuries, and Pavelich faced four felony counts, including two assault charges and two illegal weapons charges after authorities found firearms with altered serial numbers on his property.

Two clinical psychologists who examined Pavelich found him to have post-traumatic stress disorder and that he lacked insight into his mental illness and was opposing treatment. The court eventually ruled that Pavelich was incompetent to stand trial because he was mentally ill and dangerous, and committed him to a state-operated secure treatment facility.

Pavelich earned his release from that facility to a less restrictive treatment center last summer, where he had been living until his death.

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