MATTHEW BARNABY

Now: Just 36 years old, Barnaby retired from hockey after the 2006-07 season with the Dallas Stars. He was hired by ESPN last October as their lead NHL analyst on SportsCenter. During the regular season, he is an occasional commentator on NHL on TSN in Canada. Barnaby resides in Buffalo - where he spent parts of 7 seasons with the Sabres - with his wife and two children, where he can be found teaching his 11-year-old Matthew how to be an enforcer just like him.

Then: At a generous 6-feet and 180-pounds soaking wet, 23-year-old Matthew Barnaby wasn't a gifted skater or scorer. But he could talk trash better than anyone in the league.

Anti-Philly Moment: March 29, 1996. After faking an injury in which the Buffalo trainer came to his aid, Barnaby got up to pummel Flyers goaltender Garth Snow in a melee that include every player on the ice.

LIKE THE JOKER from "Batman," Matthew Barnaby made millions of dollars as a professional villain. Playing hockey was just something that he did on the side.

His job, on the ice, was simple. He was to get inside the head of the opposing team's top players. In turn, he often got in the heads of fans - particularly in Philadelphia.

Opponents hated playing against him, but teammates loved to have him.

"I've had many items thrown at me, including every curse in the book and even a few death threats," Barnaby said. "But if the fans were yelling and screaming at me, that's how I knew I was doing my job."

Barnaby, who played in 834 NHL games and racked up 2,562 penalty minutes over the course of his career, had a few tenuous moments on the ice with borderline suspendable hits and infractions.

Perhaps his most interesting moment, however, came in a Philadelphia hotel room.

"It was during the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals," Barnaby recalled. "We were staying at a Marriott in the Society Hill section of town. These were the days before everyone on the team had a cell phone, so we used the hotel phone a lot.

"It was the night before one of the games and I got a call. I picked it up and the person said to me, 'If you go to the game tomorrow, I will shoot you from the top row of the [CoreStates] Center.' ''

But rather than tense up, Barnaby played it cool.

"I didn't put too much merit into it," he said. "I was a little nervous but I didn't lose any sleep over it."

And that dark moment didn't change his perspective on Philadelphia as a sports town. During his 14-year career that included stops in division rivals Pittsburgh and New York - and with playoff foes Buffalo and Tampa Bay - Barnaby loved coming to Philadelphia.

"I've said it many times. They are the most passionate and energetic fans in the league," said Barnaby, now 36. "It was by far the hardest building to play in. Some guys definitely got a little nervous, but I liked, wanted the publicity. I wanted to be public enemy No. 1.

"I was dying, at some point in my career, to put on a Flyers uniform."

He would have fit right in. *

-Frank Seravalli

The Barnaby-Garth Snow brawl can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/DNbarnaby.