South Korea's new ice hockey coach shoots for the stars

Fri Aug 22, 2014 9:22am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Peter Rutherford

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's new national ice hockey coach Jim Paek doesn't know if success is the "chicken or the egg", but he knows he needs it right away if the sport is to gather momentum ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Paek, who left Seoul when he was one-year-old and grew up in Canada, was the first Korean to play in the NHL and the only one to have won the Stanley Cup, lifting ice hockey's biggest prize with Mario Lemieux's Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

He was named national coach of Korea in July, tasked with gaining qualification for the 2018 Games on home soil (hosts do not qualify automatically), and with a longer-term objective of building an ice hockey program from the ground up.

But with few facilities to groom talent and a nationwide pool of just 60 professional players to choose from, the task of turning Korea into an ice hockey force is a daunting one.

What will it take to make Korea serious about ice hockey?

"Success," he tells Reuters in an interview at Mokdong icerink in Seoul on Friday. "You get some success right away at the Asian Games and in the World Championships and people will flock to the sport.

"You see what success has done for short track here. All the kids see them on the Olympic stage and they suddenly want to do short track. Same with Kim (Yuna) and figure skating.

"If we get some success, Korea will build more rinks. If they build more rinks, we'll have more success. I'm not sure if it's the chicken or the egg, but we need success on a world level to get things started."   Continued...