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(E) Pavelich - Hockey Movie Miracles
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  02/16/2004 | History | Unrated
(E) Pavelich - Hockey Movie Miracles

 

Pavelich - Hockey Movie Miracles

The movie is based on the Olympic hockey win over the Soviets. What is not known is that Pavelich set up the puck that won the game.

Adam S. Eterovich


PAVELICH, MARK Hockey Olympic Gold Medal
The "Miracle on Ice" still ranks among the nation's greatest sporting moments and, in many ways, Pavelich was symbolic of the American team. The conversation quickly moves to that night in Lake Placid, N.Y., against the Soviet Union, more than 20 years ago, when he collected the puck along the boards and slid it in front of the net. That puck ended up on the stick of teammate Mike Eruzione, who scored to give the U.S. squad an upset over the USSR on the way to a gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Pavelich was small for the game, never growing taller than 5 feet 8, but all those childhood days on outdoor rinks molded him into a clever skater and stickhandler. "A throwback player who could control the puck like he had it on a string," says Baker, who grew up nearby in Grand Rapids. He was born in nearby Eveleth, in rugged country known as the Iron Range, where boys learn to hunt and fish from an early age. The town claims to have the world's largest hockey stick at 107 feet long, so they also learn to play. In the late 1970s, those skills made Pavelich one of the greatest players in the history of the University of Minnesota Duluth. They subsequently earned him a spot on the Olympic team. He earned respect with his work ethic and a knack for passing the puck. Former goaltender Jim Craig recalls him as "an honest man, just a wonderful guy to be around." Little was expected of the Americans that winter, their coach reportedly telling them before the Olympics it would take some luck to win a bronze. But after an opening tie against Sweden, they rolled to four consecutive victories against the likes of Norway and Romania to reach the medal round against the powerhouse Soviets. Pavelich played an essential, supporting role that night, assisting on two of the four goals. Two days later, the U.S. defeated Finland to win the gold medal, and Pavelich wound up with six assists in the seven Lake Placid games. The players became overnight heroes, appearing on television, visiting the White House, attending promotional events across the nation. "A lot of commotion," Pavelich says. "I tried to avoid it as much as possible." Then he signed with the New York Rangers and moved to Manhattan. The team photo shows a young man with shaggy hair and heavy features, his lips pressed together in only the faintest semblance of a smile. He claims to have enjoyed his time in New York, taking in the sights of the city, but teammates recall he wasn't much for the nightlife. On the ice, Pavelich scored 76 points as a rookie—still a team record—and led the Rangers the following season with 37 goals, five of them in a memorable game against the Hartford Whalers. Though such numbers surely established him in the league, he retired after only five seasons because of differences with a new coach. There would be flickers of comebacks, a dozen or so games with the North Stars and San Jose Sharks, but his career was basically over. Wharton, David. “Mark Pavelich Hockey Olympic Star.” Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2002.

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