Matthew Barnaby keeps it real in ‘Unfiltered,’ and there’s lots of ’90s Sabers memories

We remember Matthew Barnaby for the gap-tooth smile and the gold tooth. For the incessant yapping. For the flying fists, notably on Philadelphia goalie Garth Snow at the Aud in 1996. And for his iconic Mother’s Day hat trick that beat Montreal in a 1998 playoff game.

He was never afraid to speak his mind as a wild 20-something in the NHL and that’s clearly not about to change now. In his new book, “Matthew Barnaby Unfiltered”, the 49-year-old takes us inside his 14-year career and relives plenty of moments from the Sabers’ wild times of the late 90s.

Barnaby cover

Matthew Barnaby’s hockey memoir spends a lot of time on his seven seasons with the Sabers.

“I wanted to be able to laugh, but I also wanted to tell a lot of truths and a lot of (stuff) you don’t want to talk about normally,” Barnaby said in a recent phone chat with The Buffalo News from his Ottawa home. “But I’m very happy with the way that it came out. I always wanted to write a book. I thought I had a good story of where I came from, and also being appreciative of hockey, of the life that I’ve had because of it.”

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Barnaby collaborated during Covid-19 months with Kevin Shea of ​​the Hockey Hall of Fame on the 238-page book. He is doing signings at Southern Tier Brewing Company on Washington Street on Dec. 13 at 4 pm, and at Dave and Adam’s in Williamsville on Dec. 14 at 6 pm

Barnaby was also hopeful of doing signings with the Sabers and Rochester Amerks, but those will not happen. Barnaby also said the Sabers reneged on selling the book in the team store at KeyBank Center, criticizing the Sabers on a recent edition of his “Unfiltered” podcast. He also believes past social media criticism of ownership likely had something to do with the decisions.

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The Sabers had no official comment, but sources said the team did not receive the book for review until two days before the planned signing date, the team felt much of the content was not appropriate for the organization to promote, and there was no agreement to sell the book. The Amerks reportedly canceled their Barnaby signing as an organizational decision as well.

Barnaby is overwhelmingly positive about his experiences in Buffalo and Rochester throughout the book, but he keeps it real, too. The language isn’t what you would call team-store friendly.

“I’m not changing who I am,” Barnaby said on his podcast while blasting the Sabers’ decision. … “Maybe it’s too unfiltered for the Sabers. … I loved, absolutely loved playing for the organization, the city and the fans. That will never change. But if you think I’m going to do one bleeping thing with the Buffalo Sabers alumni, you got another bleeding thing coming. Not a chance.”

Barnaby never knew his father and his brother, Brent, 14 years his senior, served as a father figure until his hockey career blossomed. There was a lot of proving people wrong in his early years, especially after getting cut from Midget and Bantam teams. He was the last player taken in the 1990 Quebec Major Junior Draft, No. 198 overall by the expansion Beauport Harfangs outside of Quebec City.

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Barnaby wrote that Beauport coach Alain Chainey became one of the most important people of his life. In the 1991-92 season, Barnaby had 29 goals, 66 assists and 476 penalty minutes in 63 games. By the 1992 NHL draft, Barnaby was a mid-round prospect.

Sabers scouting director Larry Carriere, the former Sabers defenseman, warned Barnaby he would be expected to fight the Goliaths of the NHL. No worries. In his last pre-draft meeting with the Sabers, Barnaby recounted a conversation he had with coach John Muckler.

Wrote Barnaby: ” ‘What’s going to happen at 8:05 on a Saturday night when (Detroit enforcer) Bob Probert asks you to fight?’ ‘I just looked at him calmly and said, ‘At 8:03, I would have already asked him to fight.’ ”

The Sabers took Barnaby in the fourth round at No. 83 jumpsuit. He played two NHL games in 1993, split time between Buffalo and Rochester the next two seasons and became a full-time NHLer in 1995-96, when he collected 15 goals, 31 points and 335 penalty minutes. But he never forgot his roots in minor and junior hockey.

“That was so important to talk about in the book. You need someone to believe in you in whatever realm you’re in,” Barnaby said. “Without that, not only do I not play in the NHL for 15 years, I don’t play junior hockey, maybe, and I’m working in a lumberyard or I’m a bartender or whatever. Your life can be drastically changed by one person. Alain Chainey, John Muckler, Larry Carriere drafting me, on to Ted Nolan coaching me. Those guys were integral in my life.”

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The chapters on the Sabers are uproarious. Fighting Brad May in a foggy arena at rookie camp in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and then becoming fast friends was a story. So was three fights with Rob Ray on the first day of training camp in 1993 and sharing an apartment with him a couple of years later. For Canisius and Buffalo State degrees of the day who remember the haunts, there’s tales of nights in the Locker Room on Delaware Avenue and the Stuffed Mushroom on Main Street.

There’s plenty of hockey, too.

Wrote Barnaby of Ted Nolan: “You couldn’t ask for a better coach for the style that I played. He really solidified my role as an NHLer. We had tough teams in a city that loved the way we played. We played hard, we partied hard and we had a great bond between players.”

This was the time of Muckler vs. Nolan, the greatest coach/GM feud in franchise history.

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“I was stuck in the middle of two guys I respected so much but I chose Teddy because I got to see him more and see him on a daily basis,” Barnaby said. “There were two sides of that team. You were on Team Muckler or Team Teddy and I was on Team Teddy.”

Barnaby, however, saved his toughest words for Dominik Hasek, and describes the infamous scene when the sore-kneed All-Star goalie bailed on the Sabers during Game 3 of the 1997 playoffs in Ottawa, and attacked late Buffalo News columnist Jim Kelley in the Marine Midland Arena hallway later in the series.

Barnaby said bygones are bygones now with Hasek. They spent time together at the Draft Room across from KeyBank Center last month when his book opening party was held.

“We don’t win without Dominik Hasek. He’s the greatest goaltender that’s ever, ever played the game, in my view,” Barnaby said. “I’ve always been outspoken on how I felt of him at that point in time, and certain things that he did I didn’t appreciate and I’ll never go back on those words. Now you get a little bit older. Do I have those same resentments? No. Dom is just a different bird. There’s only one Dominik Hasek in the world.”

In the book, Barnaby described being at odds with Lindy Ruff for most of the two seasons he played for him. Ruff was a first-time head coach and Barnaby said he’s disappointed that he didn’t stay with the Sabers and was traded to Pittsburgh because he couldn’t make his relationship with Ruff work.

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“…when you have an influx of more youth, you have less experience. And when you have less experience, you have more game-changing situations and plays and everything else,” Buffalo Sabers coach Don Granato said.

“I was so loyal to Teddy Nolan that I let it get the best of me, and that’s on me,” Barnaby said. “I believed it was all Lindy, but he was just trying to be a head coach in the National Hockey League for the first time and I never gave him the chance.”

The book moves on to Barnaby’s days with other teams, and doesn’t shy away from Barnaby’s dark days either. Married twice and divorced twice. Assault and harassment charges after a confrontation with his first wife’s new boyfriend. Arrested for DWI. Arrested for reportedly choking a bouncer at a Nashville club.

Once a hockey analyst for ESPN and Sirius XM radio, Barnaby lost those jobs. Today, in addition to podcasting, he’s a front-facing spokesman and analyst for Bet99, an Ontario sports book. His son, Matthew, is 24 and in his third year in the East Coast Hockey League. He has four goals and one assist in 11 games this season for the Orlando Solar Bears. His daughter, Taylor, 21, is a student at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

“I have never looked in the past. It’s just not something I do,” Barnaby said. “I wanted to write about all of those things to give my side of them, to explain the points that may not have appeared in the media. But I regret my kids having to have gone through all that. That’s the only thing I regret. It’s not that I’m not working for ESPN anymore or Sirius XM or whatever. I look ahead.”

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