character from a video game
"I've always thought, 'I'm Bob. I'm big guy Bob. I don't need anyone's help,'" he once told me. It was the kind of bitter honesty that made you want to give him another chance.
He got a lot of them.
Young kids won't understand our fascination with Probert. They don't make his kind anymore. But there is a reason you still see people wearing his jersey at Joe Louis Arena, more than 15 years since he last played for Detroit.
Coming up in the 1980s, Bob Probert was the sort of warrior they now model video game characters after. Relentless. Brutal. Single-minded. Unafraid of blood.
He was an enforcer, a goon, a guy whose main purpose was to make sure nobody messed with his team's stars. Someone touched Steve Yzerman? Bob Probert touched back hard. Someone ran the goalie? Probert ran him harder.
His fights are legendary and are no doubt being downloaded at a record clip this morning, after news of his sudden death Monday while boating with his family on Lake St. Clair.
His time in Detroit ended badly
"Even when he's just gotten in trouble," Jacques Demers once lamented, "he has that look that says, 'I'm sorry. Help me.' "
And you wanted to help. You wanted Probert to shake his demons. He had that ruddy face, that goofy grin, that tousled hair, the look of a man who could be so happy when he was happy. And he had such skill. So Demers, the coach, stuck out his neck, and Jimmy Devellano, the general manager, stuck out his neck, and Mike Ilitch, the owner, stuck out his neck, and in the end, they all got burned. Probert walked away after a motorcycle crash, signed a free-agent deal with Chicago and made millions more before retiring, finally, in 2002.
By that point, he was a memory here, part of the Bruise Brothers days, a guy who averaged more than 3.5 penalty minutes a game. Ironically, he checked out before the Wings began winning Stanley Cups and he never did get a ring. He had several incidents with the law and alcohol in 2004 and 2005. Most of us don't know what the last few years have held.
He was 45 when he collapsed Monday afternoon. News spread quickly around here -- "Bob Probert died?" -- and we were stunned because he seemed so indestructible.
But no one is indestructible. Who knows what finally took him? But it took him too soon. Even to the end, you wanted Probert to make it. He should not be remembered by the worst he did, and he cannot be whitewashed by the best. But whether an opponent, an image, an addiction or a past, Bob Probert was always fighting something. He can lay down his arms now. And finally be at peace. [Detroit Free Press]
Links to the Story Bob Probert was boating when chest pains struck [Detroit Free Press]
How we'll remember ex-Red Wing Bob Probert [Detroit Free Press]
Joe Kocur: Bob Probert was the brother I never had [Detroit Free Press]
Bob Probert still fights the battle of his life [Detroit Free Press]
Former NHL tough guy Bob Probert dead at age 45 after collapsing on a boat [Winnipeg Free Press]
Remembering Bob Probert as the 'teddy bear', the 'heavyweight champ' and 'one of the toughest guys ever' [Puck Daddy]
Ex-Hawks enforcer Probert dies Collapses on boat after complaining of severe chest pain he was 45 [Chicago Tribune]
Summarizing the reflections on former Red Wings enforcer Bob Probert's untimely death [MLive.COM]
Former NHL tough guy Bob Probert dies after collapsing on boat [CNN.COM]
Bob Probert fight log at Hockey Fights [Hockey Fights]
Bob Probert Dies at 45 [Hockey Fights]
Bob Probert suffered 'severe chest pain' before collapsing, father-in-law says [Windsor Star]
Legendary NHL tough guy remembered for kindness, generosity and love of family [Windsor Star]
FORMER NHL ENFORCER PROBERT PRONOUNCED DEAD [TSN.CA]
Farewell Bob Probert [The Ciskie Blog]
Troubled former NHL enforcer Bob Probert dies at age 45 [Vancouversun.com]
Former NHL tough guy Bob Probert dead at age 45 [Globe and Mail]
Cross Posted at Goon's World