Bob Probert

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Bob Probert
Bob Probert - Darren Langdon.jpg
Bob Probert (left) in a fight with Darren Langdon.
Born (1965-06-05)June 5, 1965
Windsor, ON, CAN
Died July 5, 2010(2010-07-05) (aged 45)
Windsor, ON, CAN
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight 225 lb (102 kg; 16 st 1 lb)
Position Left Wing
Shot Left
Played for Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Blackhawks
NHL Draft 46th overall, 1983
Detroit Red Wings
Playing career 1985–2002

Robert Alan Probert (June 5, 1965 – July 5, 2010) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward. Probert played for the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. While a successful player by some measures, including being voted to the 1987–88 Campbell Conference all-star team, Probert was best known for his activities as a fighter and enforcer, as well as being one half of the "Bruise Brothers" with then-Red Wing teammate Joey Kocur, during the late 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Probert was also known for his off-ice antics and legal problems.

Playing career[edit]

Prior to playing with the Detroit Red Wings, Probert was with the Brantford Alexanders of the Ontario Hockey League. After being drafted, he spent one more season with the Alexanders before spending his 1984–85 season with both the Hamilton Steelhawks and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.

Detroit Red Wings (1985–1994)[edit]

Probert was drafted as the fourth pick in the third round (46th overall) in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, in which the Red Wings also selected Kocur and Steve Yzerman.

During the 1985–86 and 1986–87 seasons, Probert spent the majority of his time with the Red Wings while occasionally playing for their minor league affiliate Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League. In the 1985–86 season, he finished third on the team in penalty minutes behind Kocur and Randy Ladouceur, both of whom played more regular season games than Probert. In the 1986–87 season, Probert accumulated only 24 points, but amassed 221 penalty minutes.

The 1987–88 season was the pinnacle of Probert's career. He cemented his reputation as an enforcer with a league-leading 398 penalty minutes, the sixth-highest single-season total in NHL history.[2] He also tied for third on the team with 62 points, and played in his only NHL All-Star Game. In addition he contributed the most points during the Red Wings' playoff run, in which Yzerman missed all but the final three games with a knee injury.

Probert's career hit a snag in 1989 when he was arrested for cocaine possession while crossing the Detroit-Windsor border.[3] U.S. Customs agents at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel found 14 grams of cocaine hidden in Probert's underpants.[4] He served three months in a federal prison in Minnesota, three more months in a halfway house, and was indefinitely suspended from the NHL. The NHL lifted the suspension at the conclusion of his prison term.[5] Probert was initially ordered to be deported to Canada following his conviction, but he immediately filed for an appeal. The appeal process allowed him to resume his career with the Red Wings, but barred him from traveling with the team to Canada, as he would not be allowed to return to the United States. The matter was resolved on December 7, 1992, when the Immigration and Naturalization Service granted his appeal, restoring his travel privileges between the United States and Canada.[6]

When Probert returned to the Red Wings, he was temporarily one of the alternate captains of the team along with Gerard Gallant. While his penalty minutes remained high, he also averaged 40 points a season. During his last season with the Red Wings, he accumulated only 17 points for the team.

At this time, Probert once again got into trouble with the law. On July 15, 1994, he suffered minor injuries when he crashed his motorcycle into a car in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Police determined that his blood alcohol level was approximately triple the legal limit, and that there were also trace amounts of cocaine in his system.[7] At the time of the accident, Probert had been ruled an unrestricted free agent. On July 19, the Red Wings announced that they would not offer him a contract. "This is the end," said senior vice-president Jim Devellano. "[In] my 12 years with the organization ... we've never spent more time on one player and his problems than we have on Probert."

Chicago Blackhawks (1995–2002)[edit]

Probert signed with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 23, 1994, but was placed on inactive status by commissioner Gary Bettman in September 1994 while Probert entered rehab following his July 15 crash and subsequent drunk-driving charge.[8] As a result, Probert sat out the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season before joining the Blackhawks.

Probert's first season with the Blackhawks was the last in which he accumulated over 40 points in a season. From then on, his points and penalty minutes gradually decreased. While he never returned to the levels of point production he achieved with the Red Wings, he remained a physical force on the ice and continued many long-term rivalries with other enforcers.[9]

Probert also sustained various injuries during his time with the Blackhawks, most notably a torn rotator cuff injury which caused him to miss most of the 1997–98 season.[7] One of the more noteworthy occurrences of his career with Chicago is that he scored the final NHL goal at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens on February 13, 1999.[10]

Fighting[edit]

Probert often saw it as his job to protect his teammates, especially Detroit captain Steve Yzerman. In a 2007 news story, he recalled a time that he sucker-punched enforcer Kevin Maguire of the Buffalo Sabres (December 23, 1987) after Maguire attacked Yzerman. Maguire then unsuccessfully attempted to avoid Probert.[11]

Some significant tilts in Probert's career include:[9]

  • A long-standing rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs' Wendel Clark.
  • Two long fights with Craig Coxe of the Vancouver Canucks in the mid-1980s.
  • A career-spanning series of battles with Tie Domi of the New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs. One of Probert's memorable confrontations was also the genesis of Domi's now-infamous belt gesture, where he gestured to the crowd as if he had a championship title belt around his waist.
  • A career-spanning series of fights with longtime enforcer Stu Grimson, including a fight in December 1993 when the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim made their first visit ever to Detroit.
  • A memorable fight on December 17, 1993, with former teammate Joey Kocur of the Rangers, during a brawl involving several players from both teams. Probert and Kocur had grabbed the nearest opposing player without realizing who it was, and continued trading punches even after they identified each other. Later on in Probert's career, he would face Kocur a couple more times when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • A fight on February 4, 1994, against Marty McSorley, then of the Pittsburgh Penguins, lasting nearly 100 seconds.

Community involvement[edit]

He actively supported young hockey players in the community, and often bought tickets for kids who couldn't afford to go to Red Wings games. He encouraged a young fan in 1989 to pursue sobriety and challenged him to a contest in which he predicted he would surpass him. By August 18, 2011, that man had 23 years sobriety.[12]

Retirement[edit]

After the 2001–02 season, Probert was placed on waivers by the Blackhawks. Because he was not picked up by another team, he was advised that his role with the Blackhawks would be limited, or even relegated to playing in the minor leagues again. On November 16, 2002, Probert opted to "unofficially" retire so that he could join the Blackhawks radio broadcasting team.[7] He had finished fourth on the NHL's all-time list with 3,300 penalty minutes.

His stint with the Blackhawks radio team did not last long. In February 2003, it was reported that Probert went back to rehab. During the 2003 offseason, Probert formally announced his retirement.

Post-retirement[edit]

In media[edit]

Probert, along with former teammate Joe Kocur, is featured in a book entitled Bruise Brothers by Bob Duff .[13]

Literary works[edit]

Before his death, Probert had been working on a memoir with Kirstie McLellan Day, co-writer of Theo Fleury's bestselling autobiography Playing with Fire. Probert's widow, Dani, decided to honour his wishes to tell his story and continue with completion of the book.[14] "Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge" was published October 26, 2010, by HarperCollins Canada.[15]

Hockey-related appearances[edit]

Probert regularly appeared in charity games, spoke at conventions, and conducted youth clinics. His activities as a Red Wings alumnus were somewhat limited by the fact that, due to his criminal history, he required an immigration waiver each time he wanted to cross the border.

On January 2, 2007, Probert appeared along with many other former Red Wings teammates to honor the retiring of Steve Yzerman's number 19 at Joe Louis Arena. He wore his number 24 Red Wings jersey, and helped former teammate Vladimir Konstantinov onto the ice for the ceremony. The Detroit crowd gave him a very warm welcome, which he later said he appreciated. He stayed on to watch the game with Joey Kocur behind the penalty box.[11]

This was noted as a possible reconciliation with the Red Wings organization. Apparently it worked, as Probert became a late addition to a January 27, 2007, Red Wings alumni game against the Boston Bruins alumni at Joe Louis Arena. He scored a goal and two assists, though the Red Wings alumni lost the game 8–6.[16]

Probert recently worked on the Mike Myers 2008 film The Love Guru, making a cameo as a hockey player. He commented on the irony of being given jersey number 28 to wear in the film — the same number worn by longtime rival Tie Domi.[17]

In 2009, Probert participated in the Canadian figure skating reality television show Battle of the Blades which features figure skating pairs of male hockey players and female figure skaters competing against other pairs. Probert was partnered with Kristina Lenko.[18]

Legal problems[edit]

On June 4, 2004, Probert was arrested for allegedly parking his BMW sport utility vehicle on the wrong side of the street and entering into an altercation over drugs with bystanders. Several police officers intervened and had to subdue Probert with taser and stun guns. He was later acquitted on all charges related to this incident.[19]

On July 1, 2005, Probert was arrested at his Windsor-area (Lakeshore) home for breach of peace, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer. Probert's attorney, Patrick Ducharme, advised the media, "I anticipate he will be pleading not guilty and going to trial."[19] Probert was arrested again on August 23, 2005, at a bar in Tecumseh, Ontario, for violating two conditions of his bail conditions that he not consume alcohol or be in an establishment that serves liquor. He was released after paying $200 CAD bail. All charges stemming from the arrest on July 1 were eventually dropped.

Death[edit]

On July 5, 2010, Probert was boating on Lake St. Clair with his children, father-in-law, and mother-in-law when he developed what was described as "severe chest pain" and collapsed at approximately 2:00 pm local time. His father-in-law Dan Parkinson, the Cornwall, Ontario, chief of police, attempted CPR to save his life.[20] He was rushed to Windsor Regional Hospital's Metropolitan Campus with no vital signs. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead later that afternoon.[21][22]

Funeral services were held July 9, 2010, in Windsor, Ontario, and attended by several former teammates and opponents,[23] including Dino Ciccarelli, Tie Domi, Gerard Gallant, Doug Gilmour, Stu Grimson, Joey Kocur, Brad McCrimmon, Darren McCarty and Steve Yzerman, as well as Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and owners Mike and Marian Ilitch.[24] Yzerman delivered the eulogy.[24] In recognition of Probert's love of motorcycle riding, his funeral procession was led by a group of 54 motorcyclists, and his casket was transported on a custom-built motorcycle sidecar.[24] Probert is survived by his wife, Dani, and four children.[23]

Probert's family announced, on September 25, 2010, that his brain would be donated to the Sports Legacy Institute to assist researchers who are studying the effects of concussions and other sports-related head injuries.[25] In February 2011, it was announced by researchers at Boston University that they had found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in Probert's brain.[26] However the findings were not officially revealed in the press until late on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, by The New York Times and The Globe and Mail in Toronto.[27]

Career statistics[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team

(ice hockey)|Pts

PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1981–82 Windsor Club 240 Minor-ON 55 60 40 100 40
1982–83 Brantford Alexanders OHL 51 12 16 28 133 8 2 2 4 23
1983–84 Brantford Alexanders OHL 65 35 38 73 189 6 0 3 3 16
1984–85 Hamilton Steelhawks OHL 4 0 1 1 21
1984–85 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 44 20 52 72 172 15 6 11 17 60
1985–86 Adirondack Red Wings AHL 32 12 15 27 152 10 2 3 5 68
1985–86 Detroit Red Wings NHL 44 8 13 21 186
1986–87 Adirondack Red Wings AHL 7 1 4 5 15
1986–87 Detroit Red Wings NHL 63 13 11 24 221 16 3 4 7 63
1987–88 Detroit Red Wings NHL 74 29 33 62 398 16 8 13 21 51
1988–89 Detroit Red Wings NHL 25 4 2 6 106
1989–90 Detroit Red Wings NHL 4 3 0 3 29
1990–91 Detroit Red Wings NHL 55 16 23 39 315 6 1 2 3 50
1991–92 Detroit Red Wings NHL 63 20 24 44 276 11 1 6 7 28
1992–93 Detroit Red Wings NHL 80 14 29 43 292 7 0 3 3 10
1993–94 Detroit Red Wings NHL 66 7 10 17 275 7 1 1 2 8
1995–96 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 78 19 21 40 237 10 0 2 2 23
1996–97 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 82 9 14 23 326 6 2 1 3 41
1997–98 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 14 2 1 3 48
1998–99 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 78 7 14 21 206
1999–00 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 68 4 11 15 114
2000–01 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 79 7 12 19 103
2001–02 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 61 1 3 4 176 2 0 0 0 0
NHL totals 935 163 221 384 3300 81 16 32 48 274

Records[edit]

  • Detroit Red Wings franchise record for career penalty minutes (2,090).
  • Detroit Red Wings franchise record for penalty minutes in a season (398 in 1987–88).
  • 5th all time in penalty minutes (3,300).

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Singer, David (2007-01-15). "Behind "The Code"". Hockeyfights.com. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  2. ^ Sports Illustrated Magazine, Volume 113, No. 24 (December 27, 2010), p. 66. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  3. ^ "Probert Arrested On Drug Charge". New York Times (from AP). 1989-03-03. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  4. ^ "Probert is Indicted in Cocaine Smuggling". New York Times. March 23, 1989. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  5. ^ "Probert Finishes Term". AP. 1990-02-06. 
  6. ^ "Probert Free to Travel". New York Times (from AP). 1992-12-08. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  7. ^ a b c "Bob A. Probert". Legends of Hockey. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  8. ^ "N.H.L. Arranges Treatment for Probert". New York Times (from AP). 1994-09-03. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  9. ^ a b "Bob Probert". Hockeyfights.net. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  10. ^ "Toronto Maple Leafs - Questions, Answers, Fun Facts, Information". FunTrivia.com. Retrieved 2007-01-29. 
  11. ^ a b Duff, Bob (2007-01-04). "Probert living large". Windsor Star. Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  12. ^ "Probert had fists of stone, gentle soul: Yzerman". CBC News. July 9, 2010. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ "Probert Book Coming". CP. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Sipple, George (2007-01-28). "'80s show at the Joe". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2007-01-28. [dead link]
  17. ^ Hornsby, Lance (2008-01-12). "Probert gets surprise". SLAM! Sports. Sun Media Corporation. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  18. ^ Video on YouTube
  19. ^ a b "Bob Probert faces assault charges". CBC Sports. 2005-07-05. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  20. ^ Wilhelm, Trevor; LaJoie, Don; Kristy, Dylan (July 5, 2010). "NHL tough guy Bob Probert dead at 45". Leader-Post. Retrieved July 6, 2010. 
  21. ^ "NHL's Bob Probert Dead at 45". Fox News. July 5, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Former NHL tough guy Bob Probert dies after collapsing on boat". CNN. July 5, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b "Bob Probert's daughter: 'My father was called to heaven'". Detroit News. 2010-07-09. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  24. ^ a b c "Family, fans say goodbye to former NHL tough guy Probert". The Toronto Star. July 9, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  25. ^ The Ottawa Citizen: Probert's brain goes to medical research
  26. ^ Alan Schwarz (2011-03-02). "Hockey Enforcer Bob Probert Paid a Price, With Brain Trauma - NYTimes.com". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  27. ^ https://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news;_ylt=Av5qBLQ8Xz7VvqwL7h5MdWF7vLYF?slug=ap-probert-brainstudy

External links[edit]