Welcome to our series on who wore each number best for the Penguins.
The idea is being openly borrowed from our new hockey writer, Cody Tucker, and his project at the Lansing State Journal covering all the uniform numbers worn through Michigan State football history, one that’s been well received by their readers and prompted heavy discussion and debate.
Under my organization, and following the voting of a big chunk of our staff, we’ll publish one new one each day until completion, which should be right around the start of training camp.
Name: Richard Park
Position: Right wing
Born: May 27, 1976 in Seoul, South Korea
Seasons with Penguins: 1994-97, 2011-12
Statistics with Penguins: 112 games, 11 games, 14 assists in regular season; 6 games, 1 assist in playoffs
Only two Korean-born players have played in the NHL, and the Penguins drafted them both. The first, of course, was two-time Stanley Cup champion Jim Paek, taken in the ninth round of the 1985 NHL Draft. Richard Park, nine years Paek's junior, was taken in the second round in 1994.
Park, born in South Korea, moved to California with his parents at age three. Four years later, during the Wayne Gretzky era in California, Park learned to skate at at the Brea Mall in Orange County at age seven. By age 12, Park was already attracting media attention. The Los Angeles Times did a feature on Park in 1989.
"Richard Park's stick-handling and passing are so crisp, comparisons to The Great One are inevitable," they wrote. "On the ice, boys his own age are no match. He has dominated teen-agers four years older than he ... A center/defenseman, Park recently led the Los Angeles Junior Kings to the California Pee Wee Division title in only his first season. He scored 10 goals in a single game."
A year later, Park moved to Ontario to chase his dream of being a hockey player. Park captained his team at De La Salle College, then eventually moved on to the OHL, playing for the Belleville Bulls.
Park made his NHL debut in the 1994-95 season (while wearing No. 26), playing one regular season game and three playoff games after his junior season ended.
The following season, Park played 56 games for Pittsburgh (while donning the No. 76), the most games he ever played in one season for the Penguins. He recorded four goals and six assists, and was scoreless in one playoff game.
In 1996-97, Park spent the majority of the season with the Penguins' IHL affiliate, the Cleveland Lumberjacks, along with his fellow Korean, Paek. Park only played one game in Pittsburgh (while wearing No. 32) before being traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Over the next 13 years, Park was a bit of a journeyman, playing in the NHL for Anaheim, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Vancouver, and the New York Islanders, as well as in the minor leagues with Cincinnati, Utah, Cleveland and Houston. He played overseas during the 2004-05 lockout in both Sweden and Switzerland. Park represented Team USA in four World Championships, winning a bronze medal in 2003-04 and captaining the team in 2005-06.
Park left the NHL in 2010 after four seasons with the Islanders, and signed with the Genève-Servette HC in the Swiss NLA. After putting up 15 goals and 19 assists in his 47 games in Switzerland, Park was seeking a return to the NHL. On Sept. 8, 2011, Park returned to the Penguins, where his NHL career began. This time, he wore No. 12.
Park scored seven goals (four of which were game-winners) and seven assists, adding 28 hits and 18 blocked shots in 54 games in his second stint with the Penguins, and saw time on both the power play and penalty killing units.
The Penguins didn't re-sign Park in 2012, and he left the NHL for the final time and returned to Switzerland.
WHAT’S HE DOING NOW?
[caption id="attachment_687022" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Richard Park and Jim Paek behind the bench. -- ANDRI BASEVYCH[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_687023" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Forward Kim Sang-wook. Jim Paek, Richard Park and forward Kim Ki-sung -- YONHAP[/caption]
After leaving the Penguins in 2012, Park played two seasons for the HC Ambrì-Piotta in the Swiss NLA. Park, now 42, retired from professional hockey in 2014, and took a development coach role with the Minnesota Wild the following season, a position he held for four years. In 2018-19, Park will have a new role with the Wild as a scout.
While working with Minnesota, Park also returned to his home country to work with the South Korean national team. Since 2014, he's been an assistant coach in the World Championships, the Asian Games, and various junior tournaments. He also reunited with his former Cleveland Lumberjacks' teammate, Paek. Paek is the head coach of the South Korean men's national team, and Park is his assistant. Paek and Park were behind the bench for the men's national team's first appearance in the Olympics in 2108.
IT WAS SPOKEN
"I think we won the respect of the hockey world and made the people of Korea proud." -- Park after the 2018 Olympics.
HONORABLE MENTIONS AT NO. 76:
Nobody else wore No. 76.
Tomorrow: Dejan will take No. 77
Yesterday: Ryan Reaves
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