GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday announced that longtime assistant coach Jim Paek has accepted a position as the director of hockey for the Korea Ice Hockey Association (KIHA) and head coach of the Korean Men’s National Team.
Paek, 47, was the longest-tenured coach in franchise history, having served behind the Grand Rapids bench for nine of the team’s 18 seasons (2005-14). A native of Seoul, South Korea, who was raised in Toronto and earned his U.S. citizenship in 2011, Paek played an essential role in the development of players during his time with the Griffins, including many current and former Detroit Red Wings.
Paek helped guide the Griffins to a Calder Cup in 2013, the American Hockey League’s regular season championship in 2005-06, and a cumulative 357-272-33-46 record (0.560) during his nine seasons. Furthermore, his influence helped Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill earn the 2013 Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for 2013-14, when the Griffins compiled a 46-23-2-5 record. Paek will conclude his tenure with the organization next week (July 28-Aug. 1) by serving as the lead instructor for the Griffins’ annual youth hockey camp at Griff’s IceHouse.
The KIHA, a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), is the governing body that oversees ice hockey in South Korea. In April, the association hosted the 2014 IIHF World Championship Division I Group A tournament in Goyang, a prelude to the 2018 Winter Olympics that will be held in Pyeongchang.
Under Paek’s leadership, South Korea will attempt to earn its first-ever Olympic hockey berth and the right to compete in the sport’s grandest international event on home ice. Paek is already familiar with at least one member of Korea’s national team, left wing Brock Radunske, who played 20 games for the Griffins during the 2006-07 campaign. A native of Kitchener, Ontario, Radunske gained South Korean citizenship in 2013 and became the first non-ethnic Korean to represent the country in international sport.
“The Detroit Red Wings congratulate Jim Paek on his appointment to the Korea Ice Hockey Association and Korean National Team,” said Ryan Martin, assistant general manager of the Red Wings. “We are thrilled and excited for him on his well-deserved opportunity. With the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, this is a tremendous opportunity for Jim to oversee the development of hockey players, coaches and administrators across all levels of hockey in his native South Korea.
“As the longest-tenured coach in Grand Rapids history, Jim has been instrumental in the development of many current Red Wings, including Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Tomas Tatar, Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith, to name a few. Jim won two Stanley Cups as a player with Pittsburgh and a Calder Cup as a coach in Grand Rapids. He possesses a wealth of experience as a player and coach at all levels, as well as a strong passion for hockey development. Jim's multi-faceted skill set will be a great asset in leading the Korea Ice Hockey Association in developing its national programs.”
After winning consecutive Stanley Cups as a defenseman with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992, Paek earned the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s prize for the third time in 2008 after coaching the Red Wings’ “black aces” during the parent club’s title run. He has continued assisting Detroit during the playoffs while also maintaining roles during the Red Wings’ summer development camps and fall prospect tournaments and training camps.
As the first Korean to both play in the NHL and have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, Paek has his Penguins jersey displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. During five seasons in the NHL (1990-95), he tallied 34 points (5-29—34) and 155 penalty minutes in 217 games with Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Ottawa, and he had the distinction of counting both Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as teammates.
Paek began his professional career with a three-year stint in Muskegon, Mich., during which he helped the IHL’s Lumberjacks win the 1989 Turner Cup. He added a fourth and final cup to his playing resume in 1999 as a member of the IHL’s Houston Aeros.
Upon retiring in 2003, Paek was named head coach of the WHA2’s Orlando Seals, guiding the club to a 27-25-5 record in 2003-04 and coaching in the league’s all-star game. In 2004, he served as an assistant coach for the St. Edward (Cleveland) High School team that won the Ohio state championship, and co-coach of the Cleveland Panthers bantam minor squad that captured the Eastern Elite Amateur Hockey League title.