GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Playing parts of six NHL seasons and winning the Stanley Cup twice, Jim Paek had seen hockey at its highest level.
When he returned to his native South Korea to take over its men’s national team, he saw hockey at an almost unacceptable level. Paek inherited a program that lacked the basic necessities of the sport, let alone the talent to compete internationally.
“We didn’t have a skate sharpener,” Paek said. “That’s how small our country is for hockey.”
South Korean hockey has come an unimaginable distance in in the past three-plus years with Paek and fellow former NHL player Richard Park in charge of bringing everything from the equipment and the locker room to the quality of play up to speed in time to take part in the Olympics as the tournament host.