Jim Paek (백지선) has had a decorated playing, coaching, and management career in hockey, as not only the first player of Korean descent to play in the NHL, but also the first player of Asian descent to win the Stanley Cup.
Paek was born in 1967 in Seoul and moved to Toronto as an infant. He played minor hockey for the St. Michael’s Majors before joining the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. A left-shooting defenseman, Paek was drafted 170th overall in 1985 by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He played 3 seasons in the IHL for the Muskegon Lumberjacks and 48 games for the Canadian national team before making his NHL debut for the Penguins in the 1990-91 season. During his first season in the NHL, Paek played sparsely in the 1991 NHL playoffs as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. He won a second consecutive Stanley Cup in 1992 as a regular on the Penguins’ roster.
Paek was traded to the Los Angeles Kings partway through the 1993-94 season, gaining the unique experience of playing with both Lemieux and Gretzky. He later played for the Ottawa Senators, Houston Aeros, Minnesota Moose, and Cleveland Lumberjacks before winding down his career in England with the Nottingham Panthers, retiring in 2003.
He immediately jumped into coaching for a minor-league team in Orlando and an Ohio high school team, winning a state championship. In 2005, Paek was hired by the Grand Rapid Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, as an Assistant Coach. He later became the longest-tenured coach in franchise history after spending 9 seasons with the Griffins, winning a Calder Cup in 2013.
Paek returned to South Korea in 2014 as the Director of Hockey for the Korean Ice Hockey Association, coaching the men’s national team in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Although winless at the Olympics, South Korea finished second at the 2017 IIHF Division 1A World Championships, and was promoted to the top group for the first time in team history. Paek currently remains the Head Coach of the South Korean men’s national team.