DETROIT – Bob Probert, the beloved enforcer for the Red Wings in the late 1980s through the mid-90s, died Monday afternoon after collapsing on a boat in Lake St. Clair.
Essex County Media Relations Officer Shawna Coulter confirmed early Monday evening that the Lakeshore office of the Ontario Provincial Police received a distress call at 2:55 p.m. EDT of a person needing medical transport. Probert, 45, was taken to shore near the Edgewater Shoreline and wisked by ambulance to Windsor Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Coulter said.
A southern part of the Canadian province of Ontario and Michigan are separated by Lake St. Clair, which at its southern end spills into the Detroit River that divides Windsor from Detroit.
Remembered for his long-reach and ferocious attitude in the crease area, Probert was one tough competitor, the likes not seen in the NHL since. He played 16 NHL seasons, including nine with the Red Wings, the team that made the Windsor native a third-round draft pick in 1983. He was an All-Star in 1988 retired in 2002 with 3,300 penalty minutes.
“Bob was a part of our very first NHL draft class that also included Steve Yzerman, Joe Kocur, Petr Klima and Stu Grimson," Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch said in a statement. "Bob was always there for his teammates and was one of the toughest men to ever play in the NHL. He also was one of the kindest, most colorful, and beloved players Detroit has ever known.
"We are very saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to Bob’s family.”
Probert finished his Wings’ career with 114 goals, 259 points and 2,090 penalty minutes, which came out to be just shy of five-minutes in penalties – or one fighting major – per game.
He had well over 240 NHL fights, including such epics with players like Troy Crowder, Marty McSorley, Tie Domi, Craig Coxe and Craig Berube.
"We have lost one of the toughest players, best power forwards and all-around great guys who ever wore the Winged Wheel," said Kocur, who played beside Probert in Detroit from 1984-90 . "My favorite memory of Bob would be sitting down before a game, going over the opposing lineup and picking and choosing who would go first and if the goalie would be safe or not. It was great to be able to go out on the ice knowing that he had my back and I had his.
"He was like the brother I never had. My prayers go out to his family.”
Probert is the third Red Wings’ alumnus to die in the last month. Former coach Bobby Kromm died June 9 after a long battle with colon cancer, and former defenseman Willie Huber died June 28 from an apparent heart attack.