- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

There was a time not that long ago when Brian Sutherby had a serious decision to make about which sport he would pursue.

Would it be hockey, the sport he was truly passionate about? Or baseball, in which he was a left-handed pitcher on a team that nearly advanced to the Little League World Series? Then there was tae kwon do, in which his instructor maintained he had a shot at an Olympic berth if he continued to improve.

“Tae kwon do was third,” said Sutherby, the 24-year-old center of the Washington Capitals’ shutdown line. “It was enjoyable, but I think the novelty wore off. I just ran out of time.”

Sutherby’s connection with the Korean martial art started when he was about 8 years old, when his father asked whether he might be interested.

“I thought it would be fun to go into,” he said. “I started going about three times a week while I was juggling hockey in winter and baseball all summer.”

Sutherby stayed with the sport for more than nine years, advancing quickly. He rose through the ranks and earned a first degree junior — because of his age — black belt, winning competitions across western Canada.

“There was me and one other kid, and our ‘master’ was talking to us about possible Olympic berths when we were 18 if we stayed with it and kept progressing,” he said. “It was fun. It teaches you different things, but like I said, I just ran out of time.”

Sutherby said all martial arts are different from each other. Tae kwon do, he said, is closer to kickboxing than the others. Participants learn how to knock opponents off balance and how to duck properly to avoid punches.

Competition for children learning the sport is restricted to age and learning levels, not by height and weight.

“But as soon as hockey started to get serious, when I was 15 or 16, I didn’t have much time for it any more so I stopped,” the Edmonton native said. “I had decisions to make, which way I was going to go with sports. Hockey was my passion. It was 24 hours a day. But I was pretty serious about baseball, too. I like the game, and I was having fun, but I just didn’t have the passion for it that I did for hockey. That’s when I realized that tae kwon do was a distant third.”

Avoiding punches during the occasional fight in hockey is a nice skill to possess, but Sutherby said tae kwon do didn’t prepare him for hockey at all. Kicking, for one thing, is a definite no-no in sharp blades.

“The more I got into hockey, the more time it took with training and all,” he said. “I liked baseball a lot, but there was no time. Tae kwon do was fun but … ”

Notes — Fans in Pittsburgh are making sure the Penguins stars are in next month’s All-Star Game in Dallas. In just a week, front-runner Sidney Crosby picked up more votes (153,511) than seventh-place Jaromir Jagr has overall (151,576). Alex Ovechkin dropped from third to fourth, grabbing only 90,637 votes last week.

Fans are also busy in Buffalo. Center Daniel Briere jumped ahead of Ovechkin into third place, while three other Sabres forwards are in the top 10.

Among goalies, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller moved ahead of Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, and Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell vaulted into second place with teammate Henrik Tallinder fifth.

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