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Probert wasted talent

August 15, 2011
The Mining Journal

I don't read many books, partly because I don't seem to have the time and partly because I read The Sporting News, the Hockey News and Reader's Digest religiously.

But I made an exception recently when colleague Renee Prusi lent me a copy of "Tough Guy, My Life on the Edge" by the late Bob Probert she had received as a Christmas present.

Probert died of natural causes at the age of 45 at 2 p.m. on July 5, 2010, while boating in downstate Lake St. Clair with his wife, two of the four children and his in-laws.

Article Photos

CRAIG?REMSBURG

He spent nine of his 16 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings as one of the most feared enforcers in the game.

That, of course, piqued my interest and mandated I find the time to read the book co-written by Kirstie McLellan Day. I figured it would give me some insight into my favorite team and one of its most colorful - and controversial - former players.

Well, it did and it didn't.

Probert described in great detail his NHL life as an enforcer. He recalled many of his fights, how he went about each one and the technique(s) he used to battle opponents.

But he didn't reveal a whole lot about the inner workings of the Wings. No insights were provided about most of the team's players, or the success or failure of the club while he wore the storied Wings' jersey.

Instead, most of the book was about his battle with cocaine and alcohol, as well as his penchant for women - many women. It also details his off-ice encounters with customs officials, the police, courts and NHL officials.

It's a disturbing and brutally honest account of his life. Probert didn't pull any punches, unlike his hundreds of on-ice and off-ice fights.

The man had hockey talent. In 935 NHL games with the Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, he scored 163 goals and recorded 221 assists for 384 points. In 81 playoff contests, he posted 16-32-48 numbers.

In 1987-88, he notched 29 goals and 33 assists for 62 points in 74 games with the Wings. That same season, he recorded 8-13-21 scoring totals in 16 playoff games.

He also "protected" some of the Wings' top players, such as Steve Yzerman, from opponents looking to hurt the former Detroit star.

But Probert also picked up 3,300 minutes of penalties and was suspended the entire 1994-95 NHL season for drug abuse, one of two suspensions he incurred during his career.

He battled many demons and unfortunately - unlike his NHL fights - lost to most of them.

Probert got a lot of help from the Red Wings' organization from owner Mike Ilitch on how to turn his life and career around. The Blackhawks tried to put Probert straight, as well.

But the 6-3, 225-pound left wing never really learned from his mistakes. He kept doing the same stupid things over and over.

It's an interesting book from the aspect that Probert was willing to detail his many failures in life, both professionally and personally. It must have been difficult for him to bare his soul.

But after a while, the reader keeps asking "Why?" Why did Probert fail to get his life turned around?

One can only wonder what kind of an NHL career he might have enjoyed had he been less of a jerk and a hard-head.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.

 
 

 

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