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Bob Probert, a Life of Violence, Sadness
DETROIT -- It is a geographical quirk that Detroit, Mich., USA, is located north -- not south -- of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. But this was appropriate in the upside-down world of Bob Probert, the hockey ruffian who died between the shore lines of those two nations on Monday at age 45.

Probert suffered chest pains while boating on Lake St. Clair and could not be revived on the Canadian side, his family and local authorities said. The lake, part of the international border, links to the Detroit River that flows alongside Joe Louis Arena, where Probert became a peculiar sort of star and a symbol of an era for the Red Wings.

Probert was a local boy who made good and did bad things and always seemed adrift, never on firm ground. He grew up in Windsor, the troubled son of a troubled cop, and achieved stardom by policing the National Hockey League ice of the Motor City with his fists. No player of his generation punched better than Probert and few carried more demons away from the rink, including alcohol abuse. Perhaps Probert's most famous transgression was his arrest for trying to smuggle about half an ounce of cocaine across the border in his undershorts.
It happened not far from Joe Louis, the rink, and just down the street from the 8,000-pound Fist monument that honors the boxer Louis. I remember covering Probert's bust for the Detroit Free Press on a snowy March day in 1989. After his booking, Probert came down the steps of the U.S. federal courthouse wearing an open overcoat and a bemused expression. He never feared doing time in the penalty box. Probert then said a few noncommittal words to us and was whisked away. He spent three months in federal prison and 3,300 minutes in penalty boxes in an NHL career that ended with Chicago in 2002.

Bob Probert, a Life of Violence, Sadness --FanHouse


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