Miracle on Ice forward found unfit for trial

Judge suspends trial in assault case against Mark Pavelich, who skated for the 1980 Olympic gold-medal-winning Team USA.

Mark Pavelich

Miracle on Ice hockey star Mark Pavelich was determined to be incompetent to stand trial Monday on charges related to an August assault of his neighbor. Pavelich's pending trial was suspended by Judge Michael Cuzzo in District Court in Grand Marais.

"He lacks the ability to rationally consult with counsel, is incapable of understanding the proceedings, and is incapable of participating in the defense due to mental illness or deficiency," Cuzzo's order said.

The judge described Pavelich as a "significant risk to harm others," and ordered Pavelich remain in custody until placed in supervised psychiatric care. The judge initiated civil commitment proceedings at the hearing. Neither the prosecution nor the defense objected to the ruling.

Pavelich, 61, was arrested Aug. 20 at his home in Lutsen after he allegedly struck and beat his neighbor with a metal pole. The two men had been fishing together. After they'd returned home, Pavelich accused the man of "spiking his beer," said the original criminal complaint filed by the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

Pavelich met with Dr. Chris Bowerman twice in September to determine competency. Dr. Bowerman informed the court that Pavelich is likely suffering from post traumatic stress disorder with delayed expression and secondary psychotic features, as well as unspecified neurocognitive disorder, said Cuzzo's order to suspend trial.


A forensic and clinical psychologist based in Duluth, Dr. Bowerman recommended civil commitment and also informed the court that Pavelich "requires psychiatric treatment with neuroleptic medications."

Pavelich was a forward on the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team, which famously defeated the dominant Soviet Union and went on to win the gold medal. The victory over the Soviet Union has been dubbed the "Miracle on Ice." While several members of the team have capitalized on their fame, it famously took Pavelich 35 years to return to Lake Placid, N.Y., where the upset took place. Media reports often describe how Pavelich, a land developer, enjoys fishing and covets his privacy.

Following Olympic glory, Pavelich spent several years in the National Hockey League, mostly with the N.Y. Rangers. He grew up a prep star at Eveleth High School before becoming an All-American at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

In 2012, Pavelich's wife, Kara, died following a second-story fall at the couple's home in Lutsen.

Charges against Pavelich will be dismissed three years after Monday's hearing, unless the Cook County prosecutor files written notice of an intent to prosecute.

Pavelich had been charged with four felony counts — second- and third-degree assault, possession of a short-barreled shotgun and possession of a firearm with a missing or altered serial number. The second-degree felony came with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, while the other charges maxed out at five years and $10,000. During their investigation, authorities found an illegal shotgun at Pavelich's home. The shotgun was shorter than the legal 26 inches and the serial number had also been filed off.

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