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(Olympics) With or without NHL, intensity level will be high in men's hockey tournament: coach

2018/02/14 12:47

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By Yoo Jee-ho

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- The National Hockey League (NHL) decided not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics this month, but that doesn't mean the intensity level of the men's hockey tournament will be compromised, South Korea's head coach said Wednesday.

Jim Paek, former NHL defenseman, pointed out that hockey players, no matter in which league they're based, are a competitive bunch.

"Hockey players have the will to compete. It doesn't matter if you have all the skill in the world. If you don't have the will to compete, you're going to be no good," Paek said after practice at Gangneung Hockey Centre on Wednesday, the eve of South Korea's first Group A game against the Czech Republic.

Paek added that the absence of the NHL has opened the doors for others to play in the Olympics, and those players will be extra motivated. The NHL has been in every Olympics since 1998, meaning most players plying their trade elsewhere haven't had a chance to represent their country.

South Korean men's hockey players practice at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 14, 2018, on the eve of their first Group A game against the Czech Republic in the men's tournament of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap) South Korean men's hockey players practice at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 14, 2018, on the eve of their first Group A game against the Czech Republic in the men's tournament of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

"I think the intensity level and the passion for these guys that will probably never get a chance to play here will rise," the coach added. "The intensity level is going to pick up another notch, if not two or three."

   South Korea is No. 21 in the world, the lowest among all 12 nations in the men's competition here. The Czechs are No. 6, and South Korea's two other Group A opponents, Canada and Switzerland, are No. 1 and 7, respectively.

Paek's team has had a whirlwind of games and off-ice activities over the past week or so, and the coach gave the whole team a day off Tuesday. Paek himself spent some time with his family and tried to take it all in at his first Olympic Games.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins has also been reunited with some old NHL friends that are here with their respective national teams, including Alexei Yashin, Paek's former teammate with the Ottawa Senators, along with Chris Chelios and Scott Young.

With those pleasantries behind him, Paek said he's ready for the Olympics.

"It's not going to be easy," he said. "I sure hope (the team is ready). That's what we've prepared for."

  

South Korean men's hockey head coach Jim Paek (C in blue sweats) instructs his players during practice at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 14, 2018, on the eve of their first Group A game against the Czech Republic in the men's tournament of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap) South Korean men's hockey head coach Jim Paek (C in blue sweats) instructs his players during practice at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 14, 2018, on the eve of their first Group A game against the Czech Republic in the men's tournament of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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