Remembering the CroatianMiracle on Ice
When the US Olympic hockey team won the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY., the victory for the Americans would eventually be labeled as the "Miracle on ice" as a bunch of unknown collegians defeated the heavily favored Russians. The win also changed the face of professional hockey by introducing the game to an even wider American audience and introduced us to a then unknown young hockey player from Minnesota whose grit and determination would later take him to very solid NHL career.
It was February 1980, the winter Olympics were starting in Lake Placid, my morning ritual consisted of reading the Chicago Sun-Times before I boarded the "L" at Harlem station on my way to school on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. There were 2-3 pages dedicated to the Olympics and the names of some of the Olympians representing the USA. One of those last names has a long-standing tradition in the NHL that dates back to the 1950's.
Mark Thomas Pavelich was born February 28th 1958 in Eveleth Minnesota. He is the son of Croatian pre World War II immigrants that arrived in the USA from the "Lika" region of Croatia and settled in rural Minnesota in an area known as the "Iron Range". Growing up in Eveleth, like a typical "Lican" Mark liked the outdoors and would go fishing and hunting often. His other passion was playing hockey and watching his hero's Guy Lafleur and Bobby Orr on the "tube" as they worked their magic during Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts on the CBC.
"Prvo skola a onda profesionalni hokej."
After progressing through the Eveleth minor hockey system Mark Pavelich enrolled at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. In his first season with the Bulldogs Pavelich scored 12 goals and added 7 assists for a total of 19 points. His second season in the NCAA with the Bulldogs was even better as he scored 14 goals and assisted on 30 for 44 points in 36 games played. The 1978/79 season at the University of Minnesota was a breakthrough year for Mark Pavelich as he scored 31 goals and assisted on 48 others for a total of 79 points in 36 games, which at the time became the new school record. He finished 3rd in the league (WCHA) scoring race, was given NCAA West First All-American Team honors and named to the WCHA First All-Star Team as the Bulldogs finished the season in 3rd place in the WCHA Upper Division. After 3 progressive years with the Bulldogs Pavelich was starting to impress a lot of people, and there was one more year left of collage eligibility.