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(E) Our pride Mark Pavelic LA Times
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  02/23/2002 | Sports | Unrated
(E) Our pride Mark Pavelic LA Times
Yes Nenad, a member of the miracle on ice, gold medal american ice 
hockey team of 1980 Lake Placid. Have great weekend. Bog, Martin. 
Placid life 
The miracle now is trying to find Mark Pavelich, who has passed up 
previous reunions. 
Times Staff Writer 
January 30 2002 
Small lakes dot the northern woods of Minnesota, blue specks on the map, 
too many to count, and beside one of them Mark 
Pavelich lives happily ever after. Far from the sport of hockey that 
brought him acclaim. Far from the world and its 
"Just the wild and his wife and his dog," a friend says. "He moved out 
there for a reason." 
Once in a while, he visits the nearby town of Lutsen for groceries or 
someone spots him driving his truck on a back road, 
headed for a fishing spot perhaps. Few know the exact whereabouts of his 
cabin. So when a reporter calls—after getting 
the unlisted number—Pavelich is polite but guarded. Mostly "ums" and 
"ahs" followed by silence. 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. 
"The past is the past," he says. 
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. 
The "Miracle on Ice" still ranks among the nation's greatest sporting 
moments and, in many ways, Pavelich was symbolic of 
the American team. An underdog because of his small frame. Selfless and 
hard working. Quietly fierce. In the years since, 
he has become something else: A mystery. 
Some of his teammates have basked in the enduring spotlight, playing in 
celebrity golf tournaments, getting paid as 
motivational speakers. Others have kept in touch by phone, gathering in 
small groups for dinners or golf vacations, bonded 
by their experience. Pavelich has kept to himself. 
The players now hope he will come to their biggest reunion yet. With the 
Winter Games back on American soil—and 
patriotism in vogue—they have been invited to play an exhibition Friday 
at Staples Center, the day before the NHL All-Star 
game. It will mark the first time in two decades all of them have 
gathered. All, perhaps, but one. 
"We may have to send one of those drone planes or Global Positioning 
Satellites to find him," former defenseman Ken 
Morrow says of Pavelich. 
They might have to kidnap him. 
"He's not being aloof," says Bill Baker, another former teammate. 
"You've just got to know Pav." 
Lutsen sits snug against Lake Superior, two hours north of Duluth, 
almost to the Canadian border. Even in this town, remote 
as it is, the man and his ways are noteworthy. 
"People are always talking about him," a local named Doc Rose says. 
"How's he doing and what's he doing." 
Rose is among the few who have been shown the way to Pavelich's cabin a 
dozen miles off the highway. He is a retired 
trainer for the Minnesota North Stars—the NHL team that moved to 
Dallas—and has known Pavelich for years. He 
recalls when the player moved to Lutsen in the late 1980s after playing 
professionally in New York, of all places. 
Pavelich bought a townhouse by the shore, but, as Rose explains, "he 
went into the bush as soon as he got a chance," 
trading his home for a parcel of forest land, moving into a garage with 
only a couch to sleep on. From there, he set about 
building a cabin. 
"One board at a time," Rose says. "Nothing extravagant but well-built. 
And you'd have a heck of a time finding it." 
There is fishing in the lake outside his door and small game to hunt in 
the woods. Asked about his home, Pavelich says only 
that "there's a lot of stuff to do other than hockey." 
Not that he's a recluse. Several houses stand nearby. Friends who know 
the way are met with a friendly welcome and 
perhaps a fish dinner cooked on the outdoor grill. Still, the place is 
secluded enough that whenever Rose stops by, he feels 
as if he is intruding. And visitors, especially acquaintances from New 
York, come away wondering how Pavelich survives 
out there. 
The question should be: How did he survive in the bright lights and big 
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. 
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. 
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. 
More than half of the American players and their coach, Herb Brooks, 
came from Minnesota. The others were from 
Wisconsin, Michigan and Massachusetts, sworn rivals on the ice. Yet from 
this group emerged a close-knit bunch, Pavelich 
playing the quiet one. 
"I've known him since high school and he was always a man of few words," 
Baker says. "You never know what he's 
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 
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. 
"He'd rather do his job and be gone," says Baker, who joined his pal in 
New York for a season. "He'd rather go to the 
corner bar, have a few beers and talk to the old-timers than go to 
Studio 54." 
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. 
"It was pretty easy," he says. "I just stepped away from it." ___ 
The players who reunite at Staples Center this weekend like to joke that 
Eruzione made a career of his historic goal. That 
includes two decades of working as a broadcaster, speaking at corporate 
meetings and playing in celebrity golf 
"When the Olympics ended, Mike and I ... thought we could have some fun 
with this for a year, maybe two," his agent, Bob 
Murray, says. "In our wildest dreams we never thought he'd still be 
doing this." 
Craig, too, gets hired as a motivational speaker. 
"It was more than a hockey game," he says. "I've learned over the years 
how much this meant to people." 
But for Pavelich, those two weeks in Lake Placid seem distant. He 
describes himself as "kind of retired" and says a couple 
of years have passed since he last wore a pair of skates. Rose guesses 
he saved enough money from his playing days to 
live simply and comfortably, often fishing for his dinner. There is 
little need for nostalgia. 
So he has skipped every reunion, large and small, save for the wedding 
of former teammate Steve Christoff. Even those 
players who live within a few hours' drive of Lutsen say they have not 
seen him in years. 
"I call him to see how he's doing," says Phil Verchota, now a bank 
executive in Willmar, Minn. "He's just private. He 
doesn't like social functions." 
His teammates hoped he would make an exception for a golf vacation they 
arranged in South Carolina two years ago. They 
left a plane ticket for him, and Baker, now an oral surgeon in Brainerd, 
Minn., arrived early at the airport, eager to talk 
about old times. 
"I waited and waited but he never showed," he says. "I had an empty seat 
beside me on the plane." 
This time, with an insurance company paying to bring the team to Los 
Angeles, Pavelich is noncommittal when asked if he 
will come. "Well, um ... we'll see," he says. 
Verchota, who spoke to him recently, was doubtful. 
The players say they will be disappointed if he does not attend, but 
also admit to getting a certain amount of enjoyment from 
his reticence. They joke about him being a hermit. They speculate about 
him chasing Bigfoot. 
And, in more serious moments, they suspect he isn't so mysterious after 
"He could care less about the limelight," Craig says. "He just lives his 
life and is happy ... all of us should be that 
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