The late Bob Probert was one of the National Hockey League’s foremost fighters and enforcers of the late 1980s and early ’90s. He is the only Windsorite to score a goal in the NHL All-Star Game.
Probert was born on June 5, 1965 in Windsor. He passed away on July 5, 2010.
A Windsor Minor Hockey product, Probert spent three productive seasons in the Ontario Hockey League between 1982 and ’85 with the Brantford Alexanders, Hamilton Steelhawks, and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
The Detroit Red Wings selected Probert in the third round (46th overall) of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. Always a colourful personality and fan favourite, Probert went on to play nine seasons with the club. He also represented the Adirondack Red Wings in the American Hockey League during his first two seasons with the organization.
Entrusted with protecting star player and eventual captain Steve Yzerman, Probert quickly established himself as the premier heavyweight fighter in the NHL. Probert’s legendary bouts on the ice included one-sided wins over Tie Domi and Troy Crowder that are still regularly highlighted on Don Cherry’s video series.
Probert enjoyed his most statistically prolific season in 1987-88, when he scored 29 goals and added 33 assists to go along with a franchise record 398 penalty minutes. Probert was named to the Campbell Conference All-Star team that year.
After several successful seasons complicated by extracurricular incidents, the Red Wings allowed Probert to leave as a free agent in 1994. He signed a multi-million-dollar contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he spent the final seven seasons of his career. Probert missed the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season as he attended to off-the-ice issues, but he rejoined the club the following season and was once again a physical force on the ice. During his time with the Blackhawks, Probert scored the final NHL goal at Maple Leaf Gardens on February 13, 1999.
In total, Probert played in 935 NHL games over 16 years. He finished his career with 162 goals and 221 assists for a very respectable total of 383 points. He also earned 3,300 penalty minutes. Upon his retirement in 2003, Probert was the fourth most penalized player in NHL history.
At the time of his induction into the WECSHOF, Probert operated a hockey school, volunteered his time to helping local minor hockey teams, and traveled to spend time with Canadian troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Probert died of a heart attack in the summer of 2010 while boating on Lake St. Clair. Steve Yzerman delivered the eulogy at his funeral, held July 9, 2010 in Windsor and attended by several former teammates, opponents, and Red Wings staff members. Probert’s brain was donated to science, and it has helped researchers at Boston University study chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame misses him greatly.