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Bob Probert dead at 45

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He was so reckless in the way he played and lived. You wonder if he had cleaned up his act with the drinking and the drugs at the same age Miguel Cabrera seems to have - would he have been a better player - or not. That recklessness, that life on the edge thing may have been what fueled the way he played. If he had sobered up he might not have had that edge. Hockey is so different from baseball, especially for guys that have a role like Probie.

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NHL Network is showing a top 10 of Yzerman goals right now. Probert just got an assist. Also on that line was Dino, with Coffey and Lidstrom on the back end.

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I really liked this article by Canwest's Bob Duff that appeared in newspapers across Canada today.

Feared fighter Probert was more heart than fists

As someone who got to know Probert while working together on the Bruise Brothers book we co-wrote with fellow Red Wings tough guy Joe Kocur, I will remember him as a loving husband and a caring father, someone who enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.

A father of four, deep down, Probert, who died suddenly Monday after experiencing chest pains on a boat on Lake St. Clair in Ontario at the age of 45, was someone whose main focus was his family and their well-being. He planned his day around making sure he was available to take his children to practice. Both fathers of teenage girls, we would talk about the perils fraught with the sudden propensity of boys calling on our daughters.

Earlier this year, when my wife was hospitalized, Probert called her frequently to see how she was doing. I never asked him to do this. In fact, I didn't even know about it until my wife told me.

Probert gave much of his time to the community, often quietly, away from the glare of the spotlight that so often shone on him during negative times of his life.

To his credit, Probert never made excuses or blamed others for his difficulties, and openly discussed his battle with alcohol and drugs. Probert told me, "My kids know all about my history. Why should I worry about what anyone else thinks?"

He had no airs of celebrity about him and gave the impression he didn't realize how hugely popular he was in this area. Probert made frequent charitable appearances to help fundraise for the Windsor Minor Hockey Association, the organization for which he played as a child. He travelled North America working with the NHL Alumni and twice trekked to Afghanistan to visit with Canadian troops stationed there.

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Duff's piece was spot on. However, Bob definitely knew how popular he was around the area, but the major thing was that he didn't let that prevent him from going out and enjoying himself. Whether be a Spits game, at the clubhouse at Beach Grove, or even at the favoured watering hole like Johnny Shotz, he still came out (too much actually) but was always quick to sign and pose. I just finished speaking with many in the circle and they are currently toasting him and sharing laughs. I look forward to heading home next week and seeing those folks and continuing the discussion of his legacy.

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Duff's piece was spot on. However, Bob definitely knew how popular he was around the area, but the major thing was that he didn't let that prevent him from going out and enjoying himself. Whether be a Spits game, at the clubhouse at Beach Grove, or even at the favoured watering hole like Johnny Shotz, he still came out (too much actually) but was always quick to sign and pose. I just finished speaking with many in the circle and they are currently toasting him and sharing laughs. I look forward to heading home next week and seeing those folks and continuing the discussion of his legacy.

I heard that he had his life in order until he partied with TF's assistant captain (Romes) in Windsor and immediately fell back off the bandwagon.

Edited by DGTigers

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I rarely read biographies or autographies of hockey players, as few are memorable. "The Game" by Ken Dryden being one notable exception. But this Probert autobiography, "Tough Guy: My Life On The Edge" looks like it will be very interesting. He was still wrapping it up when he died. He had a ghostwriter, but it is supposed to have a real Probert touch to it. An excerpt in today's Free Press:

'I always seemed to take it to the next level, you know what I mean?' | freep.com | Detroit Free Press

His wife says it was hard to read at times, particularly the parts on the infidelities. Their 16 year old daughter has read it. Probert apparently told his wife that their kids would find out about his past through Google, they might as well hear his account.

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I rarely read biographies or autographies of hockey players, as few are memorable. "The Game" by Ken Dryden being one notable exception. But this Probert autobiography, "Tough Guy: My Life On The Edge" looks like it will be very interesting. He was still wrapping it up when he died. He had a ghostwriter, but it is supposed to have a real Probert touch to it. An excerpt in today's Free Press:

'I always seemed to take it to the next level, you know what I mean?' | freep.com | Detroit Free Press

His wife says it was hard to read at times, particularly the parts on the infidelities. Their 16 year old daughter has read it. Probert apparently told his wife that their kids would find out about his past through Google, they might as well hear his account.

A Bob Probert and a Keith Richards auto biography coming out in the same week. Very interesting, eh?

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The London Paper also posted a few stories from the book, one of which was the night he got arrested at the border. Interesting stuff.

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'My role was simple: Nothing happens to Stevie' | freep.com | Detroit Free Press

Another snippet from the bio

I had a little trouble staying current with my probation requirements, so the Red Wings cut a deal with a judge that I would spend one night in jail. They didn't tell me, because they were afraid I would disappear. Assistant coach Colin Campbell phoned me up and said, "I'll pick you up at 8 a.m. Have a suit and tie on."

I said, "Where are we going?"

Soupy said, "I'm not telling you. Just have a suit and tie on and be ready."

So the next morning, I got into his car and he said, "OK, look. We're going to see a judge. We've cut a deal. You're going to spend one night in jail."

I said, "Oh, that's just a bunch of bull!"

He said, "We've cut a quiet deal. The media doesn't know. The judge is going to clear out the courtroom, and all you are going to do is spend one night in jail. I brought some stuff for you. Sweats and a toothbrush."

So we appeared in front of the judge, and he says, "Mr. Probert, I don't agree with this, I feel your punishment should be much harsher, but we're going to have you spend one night in jail for breaching your probation. What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Probert?"

And I said, "Well, I think it's a joke, Your Honor!"

Soupy looked really choked and he whispered, "Probert ... you idiot."

The judge looked up from his binder and said, "You think it's a joke, Mr. Probert?"

I was trying to step away from Soupy because he was kicking me, and I said, "Well, I don't think it's right. They didn't tell me about this."

The judge said something like, "Mr. Probert, I'm allowing this deal against my better wishes. But I know you will be back here. You'll screw up again. So for now, you'll spend one night in jail. Now get out of here."

In 1988, I had the best playoffs of my life, with 21 points, enough to break the team record that Gordie Howe set back in 1955 -- 10 years before I was born. Yzerman's knee was hurt, so I got to play on the top line with a few different guys, including John Chabot and Petr Klima. Every night before the games, our line would go out and have a couple of beers. We beat Toronto and St. Louis, and then in Round 3, the conference finals, we were up against Edmonton.

We were playing awesome, but the Oilers were a powerhouse, with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr -- all five in the Hall of Fame -- plus Esa Tikkanen, Craig Simpson, Steve Smith, Marty McSorley, Jeff Beukeboom, Kevin Lowe, Bill Ranford and Craig McTavish. Just a killer lineup. They ended up winning the Stanley Cup that year and the next.

We were down, 3--1, in the series and facing elimination. But the night of Game 5, a few of us did the typical thing -- went out for some beers. Someone suggested a popular club called Goose Loonies.

The front office was positive I was not drinking. Three players on the team, including me, were on a drug called disulfiram or Antabuse. It's for alcoholics -- it makes you throw up if you drink. But what I would do was go into Colin Campbell's office and switch the pills with Bayer Aspirin that I took from our trainer's room. I'd open up the bottle of aspirin and dump them into the Antabuse container. Come to think of it, any poor bastard feeling sore who popped an aspirin from the trainer's room must have wondered why he puked when he went home and had a beer with the family that night.

Every morning, I'd go in to see Colin and he'd say, "OK, open up!" and throw a pill in my mouth. I'd go and I'd swallow it. When Jacques Demers asked Soupy, "Are you sure Probie's not drinking? Come on, he smells like booze today," Soupy would say, "There's no way he can be drinking. I watched him take his Antabuse."

The night before the Edmonton game, the coaches checked for curfew and found there were a bunch of guys still out. Neil Smith, our assistant general manager, and Soupy asked the guy at the front desk the same question we asked him -- "What's the happening bar in town?" Next thing you know, they showed up at Goose Loonies. Soupy looked at us and said, "You guys need to get back to the hotel now!" I had a buzz on, but I walked outside with them and said, "OK, guys, we'll be back at the hotel in just a minute. Here, I got your cab," and like a total jerk, I threw some money in the cab. We stayed for another couple of drinks and then went back to the hotel.

The problem started the next morning at breakfast. We had a center by the name of Brent Ashton who went off on Petr Klima in the restaurant. He started yelling, "What the hell is wrong with you, taking Probie out? He's got enough crap going on, and you're taking him out and getting him drunk! Come on, what the hell are you thinking?" ...

The Detroit Free Press got wind of this story. A reporter goes to Jacques Demers, our coach, and says, "Hey, I heard some of the boys were out drinking last night." And Jacques, who was probably worried about his own hide, should have shut up and said, "There's no truth to that." But no -- he threw us under the bus. That way, if we lose, it's not his fault, because the guys were out drinking, right? He called a meeting and he says, "Guys, if you win tonight's playoff game, going out might be on the back page. But if you lose, it'll be front page."

Sure enough, we lost, and it was front-page news. And Jacques was all over it. Of course, I was the ringleader, right? Jacques said we cheated our fans, and he told the Windsor Star, "They made Bob Probert a hero in Detroit. I hope the next time he steps on the ice he doesn't get an ovation, because he doesn't deserve it." He went on and on.

One of our defensemen, Lee Norwood, piped up as usual. He said, "It's going to be up to Petr Klima and Bob Probert to get geared to the rules or they won't be with the Detroit Red Wings." Norwood wound up ending his career with a plate and eight screws in his ankle when his Harley fell on him. Karma is a *****.

The papers were calling, and everybody was acting all freaked out. "Screw it," I thought, and I packed a bag and took off in my 'Vette to Daytona Beach with my buddy.

After the Goose Loonies incident, the team was telling me I had to go into rehab again. I told them, "No way. I just got a boat and a new car and I've been in rehab three summers in a row!"

And people gave Miguel a hard time around here, hard to imagine what Probie would have gotten around here if that happened now.

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I'll get this book when it's at a garage sale or in the bargain bin. Doesn't look like there's much there.

Taking shots at Norwood and Demers, eh? Didn't see much remorse on his part. Maybe that's in other parts of the book.

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Today's Freep excerpt deals with Probert's time in jail and his fights with Domi.

Bob Probert: 'Jail was tough, but I mean, it wasn't anything like Alcatraz' | freep.com | Detroit Free Press

Ha, mob boss Billy Giacalone was a Wings fan.

Here are the two Probert-Domi fights mentioned in the excerpt. Mick with the color commentary on both. Yzerman's belt move from the bench after the 2nd fight is just awesome.

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'My role was simple: Nothing happens to Stevie' | freep.com | Detroit Free Press

Another snippet from the bio

And people gave Miguel a hard time around here, hard to imagine what Probie would have gotten around here if that happened now.

They would have been justified in doing so. I loved watching him with the Wings - but he was a trainwreck. Don't forget the Wings finally got to the finals the year after they got rid of him.

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I have found that I extent I enjoy tell-all books as well as respect tell-all authors is largely proportionate to how willing the author is willing to own up to his/her mistakes / shortcomings.

Based solely on the excerpts, I don't think I would hate or love this book. If I saw it at a library or a garage sale and had some free time coming up, I'd probably give it a chance.

Side question: I'd be curious to know other posters' opinion of the best tell-all book they had read. I'd say Ball Four for me. Jim Bouton tells an interesting story, comes across as likable and intelligent, albeit somewhat unconvetional. He tells you some inside info without really throwing anyone under the bus too badly.

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I read Ball Four every off season. My book is all tattered, it's not an original, I got it about 15 years ago. It's really a great read. He captured humor in such subtle ways. Next time I read it I'm going to use a highlighter.

I loved his analysis on coaches and how they'd cover their butt when it comes to pitch selection.

It was sad to pick up a later version in a bookstore a few years ago and read his update. One of his daughters died in a car accident.

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I loved his analysis on coaches and how they'd cover their butt when it comes to pitch selection.

My favorite observations along that vein were: all hit pitches were hung and belt high according to coaches, and Sal Maglie shouting out to a pitcher during a game to be sure to start the batter off with a strike, but don't give him anything good to hit (if it was a strike, Sal was right, a hit or a ball meant the pitcher screwed up).

It was sad to pick up a later version in a bookstore a few years ago and read his update. One of his daughters died in a car accident.

I remember hearing about that about 5 years ago. IIRC, shortly after that the Yankees finally invited him to an Old-Timers game, and I think he got one of the longest, if not the longest, ovations. The extent to which he adored his children came out in Ball Four, I thought, even though they aren't discussed all that much.

Edited by Mr. Bigglesworth

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He tells you some inside info without really throwing anyone under the bus too badly.

I may be mistaken, but didn't Mantle want to kill him after the book came out? Or maybe it wasn't Mantle who Bouton angered, but those who idolized Mantle?

I think I'll buy the Probert book solely because I have a fondness for the mid-80s to mid-90s era of the Wings (not that I glorify that era; I'd take the Cup-winning era over that one anytime of course) and would love to hear anecdotes from that period.

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I may be mistaken, but didn't Mantle want to kill him after the book came out? Or maybe it wasn't Mantle who Bouton angered, but those who idolized Mantle?

I think I'll buy the Probert book solely because I have a fondness for the mid-80s to mid-90s era of the Wings (not that I glorify that era; I'd take the Cup-winning era over that one anytime of course) and would love to hear anecdotes from that period.

Mantle is one of a few guys he threw under the bus in that book, and by 'throwing under the bus', he suggested that Mickey drank too much, and the Mick's drinking habits probably shortened his career. And that was the extent of what Jim said bad about Mickey Mantle, IIRC. And as mad as Mickey may have been about the book, it isn't as if Mickey himself didn't popularize that particular viewpoint for many years.

Baseball freaked out over the book because it was the first time anyone painted the picture that athletes were human with human failings, and that organized baseball treated its' players rather shoddily. Frankly, reading it now, it is really, really tame, IMHO. I think Jim did a good job of showing the human side of the game as a player, and had a lot of funny stories without embarassing anyone too badly. I doubt I could have been as discreet as he while revealing the life behind the curtain.

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I have found that I extent I enjoy tell-all books as well as respect tell-all authors is largely proportionate to how willing the author is willing to own up to his/her mistakes / shortcomings.

Mixed grade at best for Probert on that. I received Tough Guy as a Christmas gift and have already read it. Was Probert as "honest" in the book as promotional pieces said he was? Well, he did "admit" to 20 years of drinking, alcohol, and run-ins with the law, although much of the incidents were already public record so it was as much explanation or spin as it was confession. He does provide many details that he could have chosen not to, such as throwing a frying pan when he found out his wife was pregnant with their first child.

But even as a 43 year old reflecting back on events from the '80s he spends lots of time blasting teammates, border officials, cops, coaches and reporters (Keith Gave especially, Joe Falls in one passage) for not standing up for him in public, even though he acknowledged that many of those had initially shown him patience and understanding (e.g, Demers, Devellano). For example, when he smashed his motorcycle into a pole drunk driving and speeding through the Windsor Tunnel, endangering others, he was ticked that the first thing one of the Wings assistants said to him was in the form of a lecture rather than a "glad you're alive". Hard to believe Illitch stood by Probert as long as he did. And Probert seemed to revel in beating charges in U.S. courts on technicalities time and time again, not to mention getting out of his Wings' contract and becoming a free agent around 1994 due to a filing error.

As for the writing style, it definitely sounds like Probert. He had a collaborator, Kirstie McLellan Day, but doesn't come off as overly polished in any fashion. Here's a typical passage from midway through the book:

That summer I met Bambi. She was cute and bubbly, no boobs, but a great ***. I was a judge at a Hawaiian Tropic beauty contest she was in. She taught gymnastics. Bambi wanted to teach me about culture, so she rented The Sound of Music for me
.

Or a few pages later, on rooming with Sheldon Kennedy:

We had a lot of fun. The food at our place was always good. We would eat steaks and grill them up, and go to the store and grab like six flavours of ice cream, with ten toppings, and just go at it. Dave was out a lot and Sheldon and I were really tight. He was like my little brother. I called Sheldon "Mo Melly". Or, we were singing the name game, and I had a Mo Melly moment - "Shelly, Shelly, Mo Melly, banana-fana, bo-belly, fee-fie-fo-Felly. Shelly". I mean, we would laugh all the time.

Amusing at first, but with 250 pages of this and with Probert frankly showing little personal growth until 2007 if that, I don't think the book would have held my attention if not for all the Red Wing references.

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Just finished the book. I liked it, it's a fun read. LS, i'm thinking you are right about all the Red Wing references though, if I wasn't a huge fan of Probert, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.

Loved reading the part about him and Dani being late for Yzerman's retirement night. I was fortunate enough to be at that game, and hearing the story about him getting held up at the border, racing through the streets of Detroit, and walking out onto the ice with Vladdy instead of his scheduled time was awesome. Also how he spoke about how Yzerman's wife being hot, and how Dani had a crush on Stevie.

The stuff about Mr.I standing by him over the years just added to the already huge amount of respect I have for the guy. We are fortunate to have an owner that genuinely cares about the city, his teams, and the players on those teams.

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