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ESPN wants Barnaby to continue to speak his mind

Before he went for his ESPN job interview as a candidate to replace Barry Melrose as its National Hockey League analyst, Matthew Barnaby did some research.
He was understandably apprehensive because the interview was a career first.

"I tell people that it's funny, I'm 35 and it's the first real interview I've had," said the former Buffalo Sabre.
He called a variety of reporters and analysts and eventually Melrose, who left the comfort of the ESPN job to become the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"He used to say I was his favorite player," said Barnaby, sitting behind his office desk in his Getzville home. "It made me laugh. People would joke around. It is a guy I respected. I liked watching him because he was colorful . . . and spoke his mind and didn't try to be someone he wasn't. I reached out and asked for any advice."

Melrose's advice was similar to that given by other experts to whom Barnaby talked.
"Just be yourself," said Barnaby. "Have an opinion. Too many people don't have an opinion and that's not what ESPN wants."
That would be easy for Barnaby, who in his days as a Sabre pest often was incredibly outspoken. He once vowed to take a run at star goaltender Dominik Hasek. He also asked to be traded, a request the Sabres waited more than a year to grant. He's never regretted any of it.
"Not at all," said Barnaby. "There are not many things that I regret in my life. At the time, I loved (former Sabres coach) Ted Nolan and I felt Dom was a big reason why Teddy had left. . . . Teddy really gave me a chance to start my NHL career. . . . I felt loyalty to Teddy to stand up for him at the time."
Barnaby turned philosophical about his disagreements with coach Lindy Ruff after he got Nolan's job.
"Looking back now, I took it out on Lindy, that it was his fault that he came in and Teddy was gone," said Barnaby. "And that's a maturing process. Looking back now, was I wrong? Probably. Do I regret it? No. I got to play 14 years in a lot of great cities. Would I have loved to have been a Sabre my whole career? For sure."
During a 45 minute interview, Barnaby often asked and answered his own questions about life in Western New York, his seven-team tour of the NHL and his new ESPN role.
He and his wife, Christine, a Western New York native, also have lived in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, Denver, Dallas and Tampa but they never really left Buffalo. They've kept their home here and returned for the summers with son Matthew, 10, and daughter Taylor, 7.
"Never had another thought," Barnaby said. "We just love it here. People are great, you meet so many friends. We looked forward at the end of every year to coming back and seeing everyone."
He remembers his wife -- a member of a close-knit family -- crying daily after he was traded by the Sabres, unsure of how life would be on his first stop in Pittsburgh.
"She was petrified when we were leaving for the first time. . . . We just had Matthew. It was tough. She was always very supportive of all of (the moves). She understood -- or she thought -- that I knew what I was doing."
"Pittsburgh was the hardest," Barnaby said. "I never knew anything else but the Buffalo Sabres. She never knew anything else. We loved our time there. Did we miss Buffalo? Of course we did."
It was the start of an NHL tour that ended up benefiting his post-career work in broadcasting. When you play for seven teams, you accumulate sources.
"There is no question," said Barnaby. "It probably is the greatest asset if you're going to be an analyst -- to be able to reach out to so many different people with things that are going on around the league."
Barnaby dabbled in broadcasting during many of his NHL stops. In Buffalo, he had a local radio show. But he viewed it more as fun than preparation for a broadcasting career.
"You don't think about that when you're a young kid," said Barnaby. "If you are, you're preparing for a very short career."
As a New York Ranger, he took part in ESPN's five-day internship program and appeared on the network's "NHL Tonight." He still wasn't thinking broadcasting.
"It still was in the middle of my playing days," explained Barnaby.
While he was in Chicago, he was approached by The Score Television Network in Toronto to add his expertise on the playoffs after the Blackhawks failed to qualify. He enjoyed it.
"I was 32 at the time," said Barnaby. "I thought it was something I would like to pursue."
He joined Dallas for the 2006-07 season but suffered a career-ending concussion in January. He again worked for Score after the Stars were eliminated from the playoffs. In November 2007, TSN, the Canadian version of ESPN, hired him. "The more I got to do, the better I was going to get," said Barnaby.
Along the way, he said a few things that upset his friends. He suggested on TSN last season that Philadelphia goalie Marty Biron, the former Sabre, was too inexperienced in the playoffs to lead the Flyers past the Montreal Canadiens. He heard Biron wasn't happy.
"Marty played fantastic," said Barnaby. "He was unbelievable in the playoffs. I heard he was upset with what I said. I came back on the air. This is what I said and this is how he played. I hope he respects how I did it, why I did it."
When Melrose left ESPN, a member of its staff called Barnaby. He underwent an extensive round of interviews and an audition that included talking about last year's Stanley Cup finals, the best moves of the offseason and predictions for the coming season.
"It wasn't anything new that I did there that I was nervous about," Barnaby said. "I was just who I am. I was honest, said I was excited about the opportunity."
He signed a two-year contract with a two-year ESPN option. He'll appear on SportsCenter on Wednesday and Thursday nights and also make the rounds of ESPNews and ESPN radio and write for He won't have to move, traveling to Bristol, Conn., on Wednesday each week and returning home on Friday.
"He's current, he's just out of the game," said Mark Gross, ESPN's senior vice president and managing editor for studio production. "He's a personable guy who has great knowledge and great contacts. He's got a personality that I think will show up on the air."
Barnaby's ESPN goal is simple since he's had so much practice: to be very honest.
"You don't have to remember anything if you're speaking from the heart," said Barnaby, saying his mother gave him that philosophy. "I say exactly what I think. I'm not up there to intentionally rip someone but you have to be honest to the viewers.
"I'm not going to try to be outspoken. I'm not going to say things just to say them. But I am animated. I usually have pretty strong views on a lot of things and that's not going to change."


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