The puck and the two players' gloves hit the ice simultaneously, a few seconds before Brown did.
But the Buffalo player who members of other NHL teams would vote most worthy of a good whipping is Barnaby, a cruiser-weight at six feet, 170 pounds. Barnaby's nickname is Killer, which he acquired in junior hockey after he fought 13 times over three days to make the team his first season. He weighed 146 pounds then. "We all have a job to do," says Barnaby, who has nearly started pregame brawls twice this season. "If someone wants to take my head off, if they got to do it, they got to do it." He smiles. He ranked a mere third in the NHL in penalty minutes at week's end because he was using his hands more often to score. He had 12 goals and thinks he can get 20. Ray, too, was on a personal-record goal-scoring pace, with seven, one short of his career high.
As for the 6'1", 210-pound May, he broke his right hand on the face of the Los Angeles Kings' Brent Grieve on Dec. 20. He's back playing but will remain hors de combat for about another month. Earlier this season he required surgery after another industrial accident, throwing out his right shoulder while uncorking a haymaker that Ronnie Stern of the Calgary Flames slipped. "If it's not an entertaining game," May says, "we'll make it one." His words arc thick with import.
What's also of import in Buffalo is the Robe. In a nod to the dress of boxers entering the ring, trainer Jim Pizzutelli began a tradition of awarding a robe in Sabres colors to any Buffalo player who displays extraordinary merit, not necessarily of the pugilistic variety. Ray, May and Hasek have theirs. Barnaby eagerly awaits his, naked aggression apparently being the best way to get robed.