International Ice Hockey Federation

Korean Hockey Magic

Korean Hockey Magic

Paek wins Stanley Cup with Pens in 1991, 1992

Published 15.08.2018 16:15 GMT+11 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Korean Hockey Magic
Jim Paek, Korea's head coach, became the first Korean-born player to capture the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the era of Mario Lemieux (pictured with the Cup). Photo: Paul Bereswill / HHOF Images
Today, Jim Paek is the head coach of the Korean national team at age 50. But in the early 1990s, he made history on the ice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Leading up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, we’re looking back at some of the biggest developments in this sport in an ongoing series called “Korean Hockey Magic.”

When the Penguins drafted Paek in the ninth round (170th overall) in 1985, few would have believed that the young defenceman would win two Stanley Cups. Born in Seoul, he moved to Canada at age one with his family. His father, originally trained as a doctor, worked as a biochemist and later sold hospital supplies in Toronto, and his siblings would all go on to work in the medical field too.

During his minor hockey years, Paek invariably found himself the only player of Asian descent, but he persevered. He honed his craft during three seasons with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals and then went pro with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate. However, despite sparking Muskegon’s offence with three straight seasons of 50 or more points, he was in tough to crack the Penguins’ blue line. In 1990-91, it featured Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Zarley Zalapski, and other well-known veterans.

Paek only got into three regular season games, but an international experience took his game to the next level. He was loaned to the standing Canadian national team and played 48 games under Dave King, who was Canada’s head coach at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics. When Paek rejoined the Penguins for their playoff run led by superstar captain Mario Lemieux, the misfortune of others proved to be his good fortune.

The 185-cm, 88-kg blueliner cracked the lineup for three games during Pittsburgh’s second-round elimination of the Washington Capitals, as Coffey, Ulf Samuelsson and Peter Taglianetti were sidelined with injuries. Paek sat out the conference finals against the Boston Bruins, but was reinserted for Game Two of the Stanley Cup finals versus the Minnesota North Stars. This time, he stuck. He tallied his lone playoff goal in the clinching 8-0 victory in Game Six, converting Lemieux’s beautiful cross-ice feed on a 2-on-1 rush. Paek thus became the first Korean-born player ever to hoist the Cup.

However, his surprising story didn’t end there. He suited up for 49 regular season games in 1991/92, but again saved his best for the playoffs, appearing in 19 games as the Penguins earned their second straight Cup with a sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Unforgettable memories abounded during Paek’s first two NHL seasons, as he teamed up with a long list of legends that also included Jaromir Jagr, Bryan Trottier, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, and Mark Recchi. He would stay in the NHL until 1994/95, also getting stints with Los Angeles and Ottawa. He continued to ply his trade in the old IHL till 2000, and even saw time afterwards with the Nottingham Panthers in Britain.

But even after Paek retired and became an assistant coach with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, he never forgot his Korean roots. Since joining the Korean national program in 2014, his hope has been that some of the winning mentality he learned during those two historic Cup runs will rub off on his players for PyeongChang.

Previous stories from the series:
Part 1: National association born in 1928, sport grows


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