In assessing the Matthew Barnaby situation, it would be simple to dismiss the whole thing as just another pampered athlete complaining about money or playing conditions. But there is probably much more than meets the eye.
Last April, I traveled to Ottawa to attend a Sabres/Senators playoff game, and as luck would have it, was seated next to Matthew's mother and brother, who are from Ottawa. Since Matthew was recovering from an injury, he was not on the ice that night but came up later in the game to join his family in the stands. As we talked, I became better acquainted with these fine people. I learned about Matthew's background -- about a spunky undersized youngster who dreamed to play hockey, of a kid who was told he was too small and would never make it to the big leagues, of someone who grew up in a household of very modest means, with just a single parent and an older brother to offer support, guidance and discipline.
What I found really remarkable was the genuine affection the Barnaby family seemed to have for Buffalo and Sabres fans. Here was Matthew getting married, buying a house in the area and so very happy to be calling Buffalo his home.
So why would a player who was so proud to call himself a Buffalo Sabre now be so desperate to get out? I believe the answer in part can be found within the disgusting pattern of deceit, ego trips, power struggles and lies that has permeated the Sabres organization since the Muckler/Nolan rift last year and even long before that. And in the politics of the situation, Matthew found himself on the wrong side of the people wielding the power. A person of less integrity would have simply kept his mouth shut, but Matthew knew what was happening with the team and his coach was wrong, and he had the courage to speak out about it.
And for that, Matthew Barnaby has had to pay a huge price.
Even though the trade didn't happen, the Sabres management spinmeisters will be hard at work. If the way the Nolan and LaFontaine departures were handled are any examples, I guarantee there will be subtle, snide remarks made by the Sabres about Barnaby's personal character, immaturity, inability to be a team player.
Don't believe it. Matthew Barnaby has done nothing but given his all since the day he first stepped onto the ice in this city.
ANDREW A. KULYK