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Mark Pavelich was ruled mentally ill and dangerous by a Minnesota district judge on Wednesday, according to Pam Louwagie of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
A member of the iconic American “Miracle on Ice” hockey team that won gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, Pavelich was ordered to be committed to a secure treatment facility, per Louwagie.
The 61-year-old was charged with multiple accounts of assault after attacking a friend of 20 years — James T. Miller — with a long metal pole following a day of fishing in August. The incident left Miller with cracked ribs, a bruised kidney, a vertebrae fracture and many bruises, according to Louwagie.
According to the complaint via Brady Slater of the Duluth New Tribune, the assault occurred after the two returned home from their day on the water and Pavelich accused Miller of “spiking his beer.”
During Pavelch’s first court appearance shortly after the incident, he was ordered by a judge to undergo a mental health evaluation as there was reason to doubt his competency.
In October, he was found “incompetent to stand trail,” according to Louwagie and Paul Walsh of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The two clinical psychologists who examined Pavelich believe he has “post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other conditions,” per Louwagie. They also concluded that he lacked insight into his mental illness, which includes delusions and paranoia. One such delusion is that people close to him in his life are trying to poison him.
Pavelich set up Mike Eruzione’s winning goal in the United States’ sensational 4-3 upset of the powerhouse Soviet Union in the medal round of the 1980 Olympics. They would go on to defeat Finland 4-2 to win gold. He finished the tournament with seven points.
Pavelich scored 144 goals and collect 353 points in a combined 378 NHL regular season and playoff games during the 1980s, most of them with the New York Rangers.
According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, his family believes that he has CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) from the many brain injuries he sustained during his hockey career. Jacqueline Buffington — one of the psychologists that examined Pavelich — agreed. She believes his condition “is likely related to head injuries suffered over his lifetime,” per Louwagie. CTE, which can lead to a list including but not limited to memory loss, depression and suicide, can only be diagnosed after death.
Pavelich’s family began spotting changes in his personality a few years ago, but he refused help when they encouraged him to seek it.
“He’s been an amazing brother. Fun. Loving,” his sister Jean Gevik said, according to Louwagie. “This has been a total change.”
Pavelich will get another hearing in February “to determine whether he should remain committed for an indeterminate period of time,” per Louwagie.
This is the latest chapter in what has been trying times for Pavelich and his family. Kara — his wife — died in 2012 following an accidental fall from a balcony at their home. Motivated by family reasons a few years after that, he sold his gold medal from the 1980 Olympics in an auction for over $250,000.
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