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South Korea turns to former NHLer to lead hockey team to Pyeongchang

Jul 23, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

Jim Paek Getty Images

The first South Korean-born NHL player is tasked with leading the nation’s hockey team to its first Olympics, a home Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018.

The Korea Ice Hockey Association announced Jim Paek, an NHL defenseman in the 1990s, as its new head coach.

“The idea of coaching the National Team in the Olympics is one of my dreams,” Paek said, according to the IIHF. “I’ve always wanted to help develop Korean hockey. I’ve returned to Korea many times to run hockey schools and coached Korean teams traveling to Canada. What a great opportunity I have now.”

Paek, 47, won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992 to begin a five-year NHL career. He coached the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL for the last nine seasons.

Paek, who was also named national team program director, replaces Byoen Sun-Wook, who resigned after three years at the helm after South Korea went 0-5 with a minus-20 goal differential in a low tier of the 2014 World Championships, being relegated to an even lower tier.

Paek’s goal is clear but not easy — qualify South Korea for the Olympics. No host country has ever not participated in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, but the end of automatic host qualification beginning in 2010 has put South Korea’s hopes in doubt.

“I know Korea hockey is aiming for the 2018 Winter Games, it’s a great challenge but if we are organized and have a plan and teach the process good things will come,” Paek said, according to the IIHF. “We cannot lose focus on the process.”

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