|Born||June 5, 1965 |
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
|Died||July 5, 2010 (aged 45) |
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight||225 lb (102 kg; 16 st 1 lb)|
|Played for||Detroit Red Wings|
|NHL Draft||46th overall, 1983|
Detroit Red Wings
While a successful player by some measures, including being voted to the 1987–88 Campbell Conference all-star team, Bob 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.
He was also known for his off-ice antics and legal problems.
Early Playing Career
Prior to playing with the Detroit Red Wings, Bob 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)
Bob 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, he 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 (AHL).
In the 1985–86 season, Bob 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, he accumulated only 24 points, but amassed 221 penalty minutes.
The 1987–88 season was the pinnacle of Bob'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.
Bob 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.
In 1989, Bob's career hit a snag when he was arrested for cocaine possession while crossing the Detroit-Windsor border. U.S. Customs agents at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel found 14 grams of cocaine hidden in his underpants.
Bob 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.
Bob 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 it 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.
When Bob 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, Bob 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.
At the time of the accident, Bob had been ruled an unrestricted free agent. On July 19, 1994, the Red Wings announced that they would not offer him a contract.
According to senior vice-president Jim Devellano:
"This is the end. [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)
On July 23, 1994, Bob signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he was placed on inactive status by commissioner Gary Bettman in September of 1994 while he entered rehab following his July 15th crash and subsequent drunk-driving charge.
As a result, Bob was suspended for the entire lockout-shortened season for violating the NHL substance abuse policy before joining the Blackhawks.
His 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 Bob 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.
He also sustained various injuries during his time with the Blackhawks. Bob missed the majority of the 1997-98 NHL season after he sustained a torn rotator cuff in a game against Detroit on November 16, 1997.
One of the more noteworthy occurrences of Bob's career with Chicago is that he scored the final NHL goal at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens on February 13, 1999.
|1981–82||Windsor Club 240||Minor-ON||55||60||40||100||40||—||—||—||—||—|
|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|
- 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)
- Fifth all-time in penalty minutes (3,300)
Bob 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 on December 23, 1987 after Maguire attacked Yzerman. Maguire then unsuccessfully attempted to avoid Bob.
Some significant tilts in Probert's career include:
- 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 Bob'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 of 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. Bob 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 Bob'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.
Involvement in the Community
Bob 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.
After the 2001–02 season, Bob 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, he opted to "unofficially" retire so that he could join the Blackhawks radio broadcasting team.
He had finished fourth on the NHL's all-time list with 3,300 penalty minutes.
Bob's stint with the Blackhawks radio team did not last long. In February of 2003, it was reported that he went back to rehab.
During the 2003 offseason, Bob formally announced his retirement.
In the Media
Bob (along with former teammate Joe Kocur) is featured in a book entitled "Bruise Brothers" by Bob Duff.
Before his death, Bob had been working on a memoir with Kirstie McLellan Day (the co-writer of Theo Fleury's bestselling autobiography "Playing with Fire").
His widow, Dani decided to honour his wishes to tell his story and continue with completion of the book.
On October 26, 2010, "Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge" was published by HarperCollins Canada.
Bob 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, Bob 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.
This was noted as a possible reconciliation with the Red Wings organization. Apparently it worked as Bob 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
Bob 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.
In 2009, Bob 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. He was partnered with Kristina Lenko.
On June 4, 2004, Bob 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 him with taser and stun guns. Bob was later acquitted on all charges related to this incident.
On July 1, 2005, he was arrested at his Windsor-area (Lakeshore) home for breach of peace, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
His attorney, Patrick Ducharme, advised the media, "I anticipate he will be pleading not guilty and going to trial."
On August 23, 2005, Bob was arrested again 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 1st were eventually dropped.
On July 5, 2010, Bob 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.
Bob 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.
Funeral services were held July 9, 2010, in Windsor, Ontario and attended by several former teammates and opponents 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. Yzerman delivered the eulogy.
In recognition of Bob'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.
Bob is survived by his wife, Dani and four children.
On September 25, 2010, Bob's family announced 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.
In February of 2011, it was announced by researchers at Boston University that they had found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in Bob's brain, 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.