Now, today we're moving from sand to ice. And I could talk about this guy FOREVER, so please read on as I struggle mightily to keep this short(ish).
It's no secret that I'm
more than a little bit obsessed with the 1980 Olympic hockey team. Pav isn't a Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione or Mark Johnson-type marquee name so he usually doesn't get any recognition, which TOTALLY needs to change. Because he's awesome, with a capital AWESOME. Have I mentioned that he's awesome?
In the pre-Olympic season, Pav ranked fifth on the team in points, behind three guys who went straight to the NHL after the Olympics and one guy who ended up playing in the NHL for 17 years. Casual. During the Olympics, Pav scored one goal but was tied for the most assists on the team with six in seven games. It just so happens that, in the Soviet game, he had assists on the first U.S. goal scored and the last U.S. goal scored -- yes, he assisted The Goal, Mike Eruzione's game-winner. But really, this wasn't a coincidence: Pav hated the attention he got when he scored goals himself (and all attention in general), so he "lived to set people up." (And he was really freaking good at it.)
According to The Boys of Winter, "If you got to an open patch of ice, Mark Pavelich would find you."
He also played in a freewheeling way that other players had a really hard time figuring out, born from years playing pond hockey up in Minnesota. Bah Harrington once asked Pav what breakout play they were going to run on their next shift, and Pav answered, "We're going to start on one end of the ice and end on the other." Best. Answer. Ever.
Pav was undrafted after the Olympics, mainly because people underestimated him because of his small size (he's only 5'8"). But according to his Hockey Hall of Fame bio, "he himself felt that being small only made him more determined and a little meaner." He went pro in Europe, but after one season was back in America and playing for Herb Brooks, the new head coach of the New York Rangers. He set the Rangers record for points scored by a rookie (76) and is one of two Americans to ever score five goals in an NHL game.
(Keep in mind, this is a guy from middle-of-nowhere, Minnesota who's ridiculously private and introverted and who hates the media and all forms of attention, who was able to flourish in New York City, the media capital of the world. If that doesn't deserve a HUGE standing ovation, nothing does.)
But interestingly, probably the coolest thing about Pav is the way his career ended. When Brooks left the Rangers in '85, his successor reverted back to the un-creative dump and chase style of hockey, which is basically the antithesis of how Pav played. Hockey stopped being fun for him, so he retired. Seriously. Granted, he un-retired to play a little bit more in the NHL and then another few seasons in Europe. But when he stopped liking what he was doing, he stopped doing it.
And nowadays, Pav is just doin' his thing in a cabin he built back in middle-of-nowhere, Minnesota. Hunting, fishing, being reclusive, not playing hockey and not talking to the media. His 1980 teammates joke about his hermit-like habits but, as Jim Craig said, "He could care less about the limelight. He just lives his life and is happy ... all of us should be that courageous."
So, I know I'm not doing this whole fan letter thing to get approval from the people I'm writing about, but I'm not going to lie and say it wasn't SO COOL to see this in response to yesterday's post:
Total squeeeee moment! (And we've spoken before, via email, for that Misty/Kerri story. And now he's read my blog. Yooooo.)