RIP Bob Probert - 1965-2010

It wasn’t that long ago when NHL teams had another position: Enforcer.

If you ever saw ‘Slap Shot,’ then you know the kind of players I mean. The Ogie Oglethropes and Tim ‘Dr. Hook’ McCrackens of the world. The ones who were itching to drop the gloves first, and shoot later.

That’s why when I heard while driving home from work today that Bob Probert collapsed on a boat in Canada and died one month after turning 45, I had to sigh a little.

Sure, he was a brawler first and foremost, but Probert was a lot more than that. He actually possessed skills.

He played from 1985-2002, first with Detroit and then Chicago – about as bitter two rivals can be. Probert’s best year came when he was an All-Star with the Red Wings in 1987-88, scoring 29 goals – 15 on the the power play and five game-winners – to go with 33 assists in 74 games.

Oh, yes, he also was a minor short of 400 minutes in the penalty box.

In fact, Probert reached double digits in goals six times over his career. But, he will be remembered more for being fifth all-time with 3,300 penalty minutes. That’s 55 games worth of punishment.

Maybe the years of cocaine use caught up with him. He was arrested at the US-Canada border in 1989 and ended up doing federal time. Five years later, he was involved in a motorcycle crash, and traces of cocaine were found in his system. That ended his career with the Red Wings, but started a new chapter with the Blackhawks.

In February, Probert was cheered on at the United Center as he dropped the ceremonial first puck on “Bob Probert Heritage Night.” Then, he didn’t look well – like someone who has lived a hard life.

Being an enforcer does that to you.

No comments: