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Judge: ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey star mentally ill, dangerous

The family of Mark Pavelich, who assisted on the winning goal in the 1980 victory over the Soviet Union, believes he has been affected by repeated concussions from his playing days.
This undated photo provided by the Cook County Jail in Grand Marais, Minn., shows Mark Pavelich. The family of Pavelich, a player on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey team, believes concussions and blows he received during his playing career have contributed to his current legal troubles. He is charged with beating a neighbor with a metal pole.  (Cook County Jail via AP) [AP]
This undated photo provided by the Cook County Jail in Grand Marais, Minn., shows Mark Pavelich. The family of Pavelich, a player on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey team, believes concussions and blows he received during his playing career have contributed to his current legal troubles. He is charged with beating a neighbor with a metal pole. (Cook County Jail via AP) [AP]
Published Dec. 5, 2019

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. — A Minnesota judge on Wednesday ordered that a former member of the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team should be committed to a secure treatment facility, saying the formerly player is mentally ill and dangerous.

Mark Pavelich, 61, of Lutsen, was charged with felony assault in August, accused of beating a friend with a metal pole, breaking several bones. Charging documents say Pavelich accused the friend of spiking his beer. Judge Michael Cuzzo found Pavelich incompetent to stand trial, and the criminal case was put on hold while the state sought to have Pavelich committed.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported that a hearing in February will determine whether Pavelich should stay committed for an undetermined amount of time.

According to Cuzzo’s order, one psychologist found Pavelich had delusions and paranoia, including a delusion that those closest to him were trying to poison him. Another psychologist found that he suffered from a mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury, likely related to repeated head injuries.

Pavelich had two assists in the United States’ “Miracle” 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union, one of them coming on Mike Eruzione’s winning goal, in a medal-round game of the 1980 Olympics. The United States then beat Finland to win the gold medal. Pavelich later played for the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. His last NHL season was 1991-92.

Pavelich’s family members have said they believe he suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after repeated concussions from his time in the NHL. They said they started seeing changes in him a few years ago and he has refused help.

CTE, which can be diagnosed only after death, has been found in several former NHL players, more than 100 former NFL players and in dozens more athletes and members of the military who have been exposed to repetitive head trauma. The disease can lead to memory loss, depression and even suicide.

The NHL has long denied there is a conclusive link between repeated blows to the head and CTE.

Pavelich’s sister, Jean Gevik, said her brother’s situation was “heartbreaking.”

The NHL has been criticized for the way it has handled head injuries. Last year, the league settled a court case with hundreds of retired players who claimed they were harmed by head injuries. The NHL admitted no wrongdoing. Pavelich did not make a claim, Gevik has said.

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