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08/15/2006 9:39 AM - Pair Guided Franchise to AHL Regular Season Championship in 2005-06

– The Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on Tuesday announced that head coach Greg Ireland and assistant coach Jim Paek have signed contract extensions through the 2007-08 season.

Under their guidance, the Griffins captured the AHL’s 2005-06 Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular season champions, posting a 55-20-1-4 mark and setting franchise records for wins, points (115) and winning percentage (0.719). Following a regular season in which it earned the third-most victories in league history, Grand Rapids defeated Toronto (4-1) and Manitoba (4-3) in the North Division playoffs before falling to Milwaukee (0-4) in the Western Conference Finals.

Ireland, 40, was elevated to the head coaching position on Feb. 10, 2005, after having served as the team’s assistant coach since the start of the 2003-04 season. Despite recording an impressive stretch run (17-13-1-1) under their newly named coach, the 2004-05 Griffins became the only team in the AHL’s 70-year history to win more than 40 games (41-35-2-2) and still be excluded from the playoffs.

Ireland’s cumulative record as the Griffins’ head coach stands at 72-33-2-5 during the regular season – giving him the highest winning percentage (0.674) of the team’s six head coaches – and 8-8 during the Calder Cup Playoffs.

As an assistant with Grand Rapids during the 2003-04 season, Ireland helped construct a Griffins defense that allowed a franchise-low 166 goals, placing fourth in the AHL at just 2.08 per game.

The Orangeville, Ontario, native joined the Griffins organization on Aug. 1, 2003, after spending five seasons as head coach and general manager of hockey operations for the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers. From 1998-2003, he compiled an overall record of 175-134-47 (0.558) and became the winningest coach in that franchise’s history.

His most successful seasons came in 2000-01, when the Bombers set a team record with 45 wins, and 2001-02, when they claimed their first-ever division title and advanced to the Kelly Cup finals. Ireland’s first AHL experience came at the conclusion of the 2002-03 regular season, when he joined the Hamilton Bulldogs as an assistant coach during their run to the Calder Cup Finals.

While in Dayton, Ireland proved to be a proficient developer of talent. Eighteen of his players earned ice time in the AHL during the 2002-03 campaign, while during his five years as coach, he sent more than 90 different players on to either the AHL or the International Hockey League.

Prior to assuming the Bombers’ helm in 1998, Ireland served as head coach for three junior teams, including the Caledon Canadians (1994-98), the Oakville Blades (1992-94) and the Milton Merchants (1991-92). He won a pair of championships with Caledon and another with Milton, and was named the Ontario Hockey Association’s Jr. A Coach of the Year with Oakville in 1994.

Ireland’s teaching skills extend to the sport of lacrosse, as he has coached several Canadian junior and midget lacrosse teams to national championships.

Paek, 39, begins his second season behind the Griffins’ bench. He won consecutive Stanley Cup championships as a defenseman with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992, and tallied 34 points (5-29—34) and 155 penalty minutes in 217 NHL games with Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Paek became the first Korean to both play in the NHL and have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. In recognition of those accomplishments, Paek’s Penguins jersey is displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

While in Pittsburgh, he was named the team’s 1992 rookie of the year and was the co-winner of its 1993 community service award.

Traded to Los Angeles with former Griffin Marty McSorley for Tomas Sandstrom and Shawn McEachern on Feb. 16, 1994, Paek had the distinction of counting both Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as teammates. During his 16-year career, he also learned from some of hockey’s most accomplished coaches, including the legendary Scotty Bowman, “Badger” Bob Johnson, and current Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett.

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 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. For 2004-05, he moved to Cleveland and served as an assistant coach for the St. Edwards 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.

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