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Barnaby: fighting Lightning

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2001


He is the Lightning's designated bruiser, who fights well above his 5-foot-10, 185-pound weight class. Matthew Barnaby on Eric Lindros, the art of war, big brother Brent and the state of mankind.

RM: Should Eric Lindros be allowed to play in the World Championships in late April, even if he hasn't played for a team this season?

MB: Absolutely. I'm sure sitting out the season was, financially, not good for his career. So he only hurt himself by not playing. Team Canada, in this case, has nothing to do with the NHL. He's still one of the best players in the game.

RM: Are you really such a bad a--?

MB: I think my penalty minutes have something to do with my reputation. It's part of my game. I'm not one of the biggest guys, but I stand up for my teammates. It's well-deserved.

RM: Is being an enforcer something you had to become or something you were?

MB: I've always been an agitator. I've always been a bothersome kid, a kid that got beat up a lot in school, before high school. I was always running my mouth off and then suffering the consequences. When I got to junior hockey, I felt I was not good enough to stay on the team if I didn't have my own niche. That seems to be my niche. So, maybe consciously I did make a decision to be one.

RM: Ever regret taking that fork in the road?

MB: Many times. There have been a couple nights, when, well some of those guys have been pretty big. You take some beatings; you take some concussions. RM: Who has hit you the hardest?

MB: I probably don't remember, I got hit so hard. Maybe (the Kings') Stu Grimson, (the Penguins') Krzysztof Oliwa and (the Bruins') Andrei Nazarov. They'd be the top three.

RM: And who have you punished pretty badly?

MB: I would have to look at the tapes. But Darcy Tucker, I hit him pretty hard last year. He didn't go down, but I messed him up pretty good.

RM: The earliest you ever got into a brawl?

MB: The quickest was four seconds.

RM: What could have happened in the first three seconds to tick you off?

MB: Depending on what happened the game before, you have to start something immediately. For instance, if someone picked on a younger member of the team the game before, and he ended up starting the game, then we go. Sometimes it's nice to get that fight out of the way, get everyone settled then get down to the game.

RM: Ever rumbled in warmups?

MB: I have, but not in this league. The fines in this league are too much. But in junior league, we have had some full-fledged brawls. I once two-handed a guy with my stick in the warmups. There's that fine line in center ice where you're not supposed to cross. He crossed over it and we got it on.

RM: But you're only 185 pounds?

MB: True, I'm small. But I'm an exception. I have to be willing to take 10 or 12 punches in order to get one in. I'm often not able to go in there and stand in toe-to-toe. I have to think my way through a fight, tire them down and then get them at the end of the fight.

RM: The secret is . . .?

MB: Conditioning. ... The guys I usually fight throw five or six punches and then they're tired. Once they start getting tired, then I throw a few jabs and look for the big one.

RM: Tell me about your childhood hero?

MB: I loved hockey and sports in general but my brother (Brent) was probably my biggest idol. He's 14 years older than me and getting up in age now but he still works in a lumber yard and has had to work so hard for everything. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here.

RM: Hockey wasn't his thing?

MB: He never had the chance, or the opportunities I had. My mom was a single parent and at the time didn't have the money to put him through it. He makes a good living and has been doing it for 20 years. He's a great man.

RM: You say he's tougher than you?

MB: He's about 5 feet 8 and about 220 pounds. I have no chance against him. He's the only man I'm afraid of.

RM: Ever scrap with him?

MB: A couple of times. As I got older, I thought I was tough. There was one time I kicked him in the face and broke his nose. He told me I had 10 seconds to lock myself in my bedroom before he was going to come after me. So I ran up there and locked myself in.

RM: Did he come after you?

MB: I remember crying as I heard him coming up to the room after those 10 seconds. He checked the door and then walked back down. I prayed to God.

RM: He would have thrashed you?

MB: No question, he would have. He would have laid a licking on me that I never would have forgotten. I followed his instructions perfectly.

RM: Are we falling apart as a civilization?

MB: We're taking two steps forward, one step back. We're cloning sheep.

RM: So cloning sheep is not a good thing?

MB: No way. Of course, you know, they'll end up cloning human beings. RM: Speaking of genetic tampering, who needs plastic surgery more desperately, Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger?

MB: Oh, God. ... Two ugly guys, man. I would have to say Mick Jagger. He's pretty bad. Steven Tyler at least made (actor) Liv Tyler, so at least there's got to be something there in his genes.

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