August 13, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Mark Pavelich

It was national news when it was announced that 1980 Miracle On Ice hockey player Mark Pavelich was selling his Lake Placid gold medal.

Pavelich, who also played over 340 NHL games, insisted he is not in financial trouble of any sort. The 56 year old is just looking to set up his children's future with trust funds to pay for education.

A collector who had previously acquired Mark Wells 1980 gold medal recently sold the keepsake for over $300,000. Pavelich's medal sold for slightly less.

So who is Mark Pavelich? Mark Pavelich entered the league as a highly talented player with good credentials. 

The graduate of the University of Minnesota at Duluth, the former NCAA all star spent the 1980 season playing with the United States national team, and earned a spot on the Olympic team. With 1 goal and 7 points in 7 Olympic games, Mark played a nice role in the USA's upset gold medal victory. 

Despite his early successes, Pavelich did not jump to the NHL right away. Despite free agent offers, Pavelch opted to play the year over in Switzerland with HC Lugano. He also played for Team USA in the world championships. 

The New York Rangers were finally able to ink Pavelich to a deal in the summer of 1981. He paid immediate dividends. He scored 33, 37 and 39 goals in his first 3 seasons, as well as 76, 75 and 82 points. Pavelich had an injury troubled 1984-85 season, breaking his leg in just the second game of the season. However Pavelich still managed 45 points in 48 games. 

Despite his small size (5'8", 170lbs), Pavelich had overcome all odds and established himself as a top line NHLer. He obviously had the offensive gifts, but was also a good two way player. And what he lacked in physical presence he more than made up for in speed and skill. 

"He's our best two way hockey player" boasted coach Herb Brooks, who also coached Pavelich in the Olympics. "He's our Bryan Trottier." 

However Pavelich was never high on the NHL lifestyle. And when the Rangers hired Ted Sator as head coach in 1985-86. Sator and Pavelich did not see eye to eye, and engaged in a very public dispute. 

"They don't know what they are doing" said Pavelich at the time of Sator and his coaching staff. "And I don't understand their thinking at all." 

After one tumultuous season under Sator, Pavelich decided he didn't want to put up with the headaches and just upped and quit. 

"That (the relationship with Sator) would be the number one reason why I decided to retire." 

Towards the end of the 1985-86 season the Rangers traded Pavelich to his home-state Minnesota North Stars. Marty came out of retirement, though it wasn't so much to return to the National Hockey League. He was thinking of his hockey future, which he knew would lead him to Europe. 

"I still had to stay in the limelight to get a good contract overseas." said Pavelich. 

Pavelich ended up signing with HC Bolzano, which also featured former NHL superstar Kent Nilsson, former Edmonton Oiler farm hand Mike Zanier and coached by former NHLer Ron Chipperfield. 

"He's played unbelievable" said Chipperfield at the time. "He plays both ends of the rink well. I've used him against the top lines and he's shutting them down." 

"The way he's playing here, you can see he could still be playing in the NHL and be playing well." 

Pavelich enjoyed the lifestyle in Italy. 

"There are a lot less hassles over here" said Pavelich, who was a happy go lucky kind of guy who enjoyed fishing and playing guitar as much as hockey. 

Plus the hockey schedule was favorable to Pavelich's liking as well - two games a week 

Pavelich played until 1989. After taking a couple of years off, Pavelich made a surprise come back attempt with the expansion San Jose Sharks. However the stint lasted only 2 games. He however was able to post the first assist in San Jose Sharks history.

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