International Ice Hockey Federation

Korean Hockey Magic

Korean Hockey Magic

Park pots overtime winner vs. Colorado in 2003

Published 15.08.2018 16:15 GMT+11 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Korean Hockey Magic
Korea’s two former NHLers Richard Park (left) and Jim Paek (right) now coach the Korean men’s national team. Photo: Andri Basevych
Will Richard Park guide Korea to unexpected success in 2018? Now a national team assistant coach, he got one of the greatest goals in Minnesota Wild history.

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.”

The hockey gods can be unpredictable. Just look at where Park was taken in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft (second round, 50th overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins). Objectively, the Seoul-born American forward who learned to skate at age seven at the Brea Mall in Orange County, California did not go on to as successful of a career as either of the players drafted before or after him.

Mathieu Dandenault (49th overall) won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and the 2003 IIHF World Championship with Canada. Patrik Elias (51st overall) also won three Cups with the New Jersey Devils, became the franchise’s all-time points leader (1,025), and earned three IIHF bronze medals with the Czech Republic at the 2006 Olympics and 1998 and 2011 Worlds.

But with all that said, Park, who moved from California to Canada at age 13 and starred with the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, would achieve his own shining moments over time.

With Pittsburgh, Anaheim, and Philadelphia, he bounced between the minors and the big league for the first six seasons of his pro career. Yet the nifty speedster started to have a real impact as a regular with the Wild in 2001/02. His biggest NHL thrill would come in 2002/03 as the defence-minded club under coach Jacques Lemaire enjoyed its deepest playoff run ever.

Minnesota was in tough against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. Led by Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy, the Avs had won the Cup in 2001 and lost to Detroit in seven games in the 2002 Western Conference final. Forsberg was the league scoring champion with 106 points, while no Minnesota player had more than Marian Gaborik (68 points). The expansion Wild were making their first post-season appearance in three tries. Few expected these journeymen to get far, and those fears seemed valid when the Avalanche grabbed a 3-1 series lead.

However, the Wild rallied in stunning fashion. After a 3-2 road win in Game Five, they went to overtime tied 2-2 at the Xcel Energy Center in Game Six. And then it was time for peak Park.

He swooped in over the blue line, took a pass from Wes Walz, and sent a zinger from the right faceoff circle that beat Roy at 4:22. The over-capacity crowd of 19,350 exploded. Park reminisced later about his shot selection: “I was on Patrick’s left side, and I don’t know why, but I just saw a lot of net between his legs.”

Andrew Brunette famously tallied the Game Seven overtime winner in Denver, and Minnesota would edge the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the second round before getting swept by Anaheim in the conference final.

Park had other career highlights, such as capturing a bronze medal with the United States at the 2004 IIHF World Championship in Prague. He became a consistent 30-point producer with the New York Islanders in the late 2000s. But now, having retired after two seasons with the Swiss NL’s HC Ambri-Piotta, he’s ready to find out as an assistant coach in PyeongChang whether anything can top the 2003 thrill of downing the Avalanche.

Previous stories from the series:



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