20 Years Later: Jim Paek

Jim Paek hoists the Stanley Cup, the first Korean to do so.

Have I mentioned it was the 20th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first Stanley Cup championship yet?

In this, this 20th celebration of Penguin excellence, it has been my goal to compile as many interviews with members of that 1991 team as possible.  To longtime Pens fans, the names like Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Tom Barrasso, Larry Murphy, Kevin Stevens, and Jaromir Jagr (not to mention many others) have become synonymous with Pittsburgh Penguin Stanley Cup glory.  But what of the other heroes of that 1991 Cup win?

Names like Jim Paek, Bob Errey, Troy Loney, Paul Stanton, Grant Jennings, and Scott Young are but a few of the players on that 1991 team that were just as crucial to that 1991 Cup run as the other players mentioned above.  It is my extreme pleasure to present the first interview with a 1991 Cup champion:  On defense, wearing #2…Jim Paek.

A bit of information on Mr. Paek.  Jim Paek was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to Canada when he was three years old.  Jim played for several teams in his NHL career.  The Penguins, Ottawa Senators, and Los Angeles Kings all saw Jim patrol their bluelines during his NHL heyday.  But it was with Pittsburgh that Jim saw his most memorable years, winning the Stanley Cup twice, being the first Korean to have his name engraved on hockey’s Holy Grail.

Today, Jim is an assistant coach with the AHL’s Grand Rapid Griffins, where he helps develop the next generation of NHL players.  Jim has been gracious and extremely forthcoming, and it has been a great experience dealing with Jim, and the walk down memory lane has been a great one for both he and I.

So without any hesitation, I present my conversation with Jim Paek!

Justin–When you first entered the Pens’ dressing room in 1991, did you imagine the type of run you would go on in the playoffs?  What were your first thoughts in sharing a room with stars like Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey?

Jim:  You always think you can win especially with the type of character and skill the Penguins had that year. Sharing the room with Mario and Paul I was in awe. Then you look around the room and you see more great players and guys. You learn a lot watching those guys.

Justin– At the time, you were the first Korean born player to play in the NHL, and that year, became the first Korean to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.  What does that mean to you?

Jim:  It sure was an honor being the first Korean to have won the Stanley Cup. I always see myself as a Korean. The Korean community sure did receive me well. I am thankful for them recognizing me as a Korean and a hockey player.

Justin–What were the final moments of Game 6 like for you in Minnesota, watching the clock tick down to zero?

Jim:  I was a nervous wreck. You never take anything for granted. As the clocked ticked down so many emotions run through you. All the blood sweat and tears, your childhood dream about to come true, your parents and family for all there support. It sure was an emotional time.

Justin–What was Badger Bob Johnson like to play for? 

Jim:  Badger was the most positive coach, person I knew. He gave me the chance to play and kept throwing me into the fire. He showed confidence in me. I just regret not knowing him longer. The things he taught me will last forever in me and I will pass it on to others.

Justin–Describe being in Pittsburgh during the 1991 Cup run.  Many people make the mistake of thinking only Canadian cities are hockey mad.  How would you rate Pittsburgh against some Canadian cities?

Jim:  Pittsburgh was fantastic. The support we got from the city was incredible. Our colors and logo were everywhere. What is amazing is that they still remember and thank you for the cup. How awesome is that!

Justin–Many people will remember you for your scoring the 7th goal in that 8-0 win in Game 6.  Walk us through the goal.

Jim:  Scoring your first goal in the Stanley Cup finals, assisted by Mario. I dont think you can write that any better.

Justin–Was there one moment during the 1991 playoffs that stands out the most for you (besides the Cup win itself)?

Jim:  What stands out during the playoffs for me was how close the guys were. Everyone played their part and accepted their role. It was a special bunch of guys led by a special man Badger Bob.

Justin–Describe playing with the likes of Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy.  As a rookie, how much did you learn from them?

Jim:  I learned so much from watching those guys and they would help me in anyway they could.

Justin–How are you enjoying your time in Grand Rapids?

Jim:  Grand Rapids is a great place to raise a family and the organization here is top notch. It is great developing these young players and helping them play in the NHL. You feel you have apart of their success.

Justin–Describe the difference in your role and your emotions between the 1991 and 1992 Cup wins.

Jim:  The emotions were high in both years. To be able to win back to back championships just like the commercial, speechless. There are no words to describe it. My role in both those years were to work hard and do whatever to help the team win.

My thanks to Mr. Jim Paek for his time and insights to a great time in Pittsburgh Penguins history!

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