Jim Paek won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, coached for his native South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and helped develop players for the Detroit Red Wings farm team in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
But the retired National Hockey League defenseman recently called Nottingham, England, “home.”
Paek and his family spent the Christmas holiday in Nottingham, the place where he closed out his professional playing career with the Nottingham Panthers in the early 2000s.
“We like to call this home, in Nottingham,” Paek told team General Manager Gary Moran on Panthers TV. “This is where my daughter was born. She wanted to come back and have a little feeling of Christmas, and we sure have received that here. Met a lot of great friends that we made in the past, and it’s been absolutely great.”
Paek became the NHL’s first Korean-born player when he joined the Penguins in the 1990-91 season. He helped anchor Pittsburgh’s defense during the team’s back-to-back Stanley Cup run in 1990-91 and 1991-92.
He appeared in 217 NHL regular season games with the Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators, tallying 5 goals and 29 assists. Paek played in 27 Stanley Cup Playoffs games, scoring a goal and 4 assists.
After bouncing around the old International Hockey League, Paek crossed the pond and joined the Panthers in 2001-01. He signed on to play for the Anchorage Aces of the defunct West Coast Hockey League the following season but returned to Nottingham after 40 games with the Alaska team.
“To be honest, it was hard, it was hard to be in Anchorage, Alaska,” Paek told Panthers TV. “I will never forget the first time coming back (to Nottingham) and stepping on the ice. What a tremendous reception I got.”
Paek played in 84 regular season games for the Panthers, scoring 4 goals and 31 assists. He had a goal and 7 assists in 29 BISL playoff contests before hanging up his skates in 2002-2003.
But his blades didn’t stay in the closet long – coaching opportunities beckoned in North America and beyond. Paek served as an assistant coach for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate, from 2005-06 to 2013-14.
In 2014, South Korea hired Paek to coach its 2018 Winter Olympic men’s hockey team and to basically build a national hockey program from scratch.
The South Korean men failed to register a win at the home-ice Winter Olympics and Paek’s squad was outscored 14 to 1 in three games. Still, he established a foundation that the country’s sports brain trust hopes will translate into wins – and medals – in the near future.
The Korea Ice Hockey Association rewarded Paek with a three-year contract extension in June. He’s on a mission now to make sure that South Korea’s men’s and women’s teams qualify for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
“After the Olympics, I felt I wasn’t done yet,” Paek told Panthers TV. “I needed to do more with Korean hockey and, hopefully, we can move along, progress, and develop nicely.”
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