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Probert remembered at HockeyFest

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
A poster of Bob Probert's jersey was sold at HockeyFest, with proceeds going to the Bob Probert Memorial Ride and local cardiac care. (Photo by Dana Wakiji/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- It's hard to believe it's been more than five years since Bob Probert died.

Probert would have turned 50 this past June but died of a heart attack while boating with his family on July 5. 2010.

As the Red Wings held their annual HockeyFest Sunday at Joe Louis Arena, they had a very special panel discussion about Probert and his life.

Longtime local radio personality Art Regner served as the host, while Dani Probert, Bob's widow, Joe Kocur and Darren McCarty were the panelists.

Probert and Kocur were known as the "Bruise Brothers" when they played together.

Bob and Dani Probert's four children, Brogan, Tierney, Declyn and Jack, were also in attendance.

McCarty summed it up best for everyone, saying, "Big Bob's in our heart forever and he's got a big influence on all of us in different ways."

Although Probert was always known as one of the fiercest enforcers to ever play, Kocur remembered that he was much more than that.

"Any young kid coming into the league that wanted to make a new for himself went after Probie," Kocur said. "It really got to him. It's a tough feeling because you've got all these young gunslingers coming at you and he scored 29 goals one year. He was a player but he still had to answer the bell. Unfortunately for him, he had to continue to fight. He could have gotten 40 goals with the way he handled the puck."

Dani Probert said she believed it bothered Probert to be known just for his fighting skills.

"I think it was something that he wanted to go on and put in a good shift, score a goal," Dani Probert said. "He'd be talking about that on the way home. He wouldn't necessarily talk about the fights. He wanted to score some points, he had great hands and he wanted to be a part of that."

It was in the 1987-88 season that Probert scored 29 goals, along with 33 assists, in 74 games. He also had a career-high 398 penalty minutes to go along with that.

That was the season that Probert made his only All-Star team and reminded McCarty of one of his favorite memories, a story related to him by Steve Yzerman.

"When Bob made the All-Star Game in Edmonton, everybody on both teams, their favorite person they wanted to meet and see was Probie," McCarty said. "He signed more autographs and gave away more stuff to his colleagues that played against him. It was unbelievable. You'd think it would be Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier or Steve Yzerman, but it was Bob Probert where everybody wanted a piece of that."

Dani Probert said despite his well-documented off-ice troubles, her husband was a big teddy bear off the ice.

She also said Probert wasn't quite as fearless as you would think.

"One of my favorite stories, you all think of Bob the tough guy," Dani Probert said. "When my daughters were up at the lake and we heard a rattlesnake. I had to have Bob come down and save the day.

"He was the first one on top of that picnic table with us. He was not that tough."

Kocur wrapped up the event with how he will always remember his best friend.

"How I remember him was the toughest player ever, and I mean ever, to play in the NHL," Kocur said. "With all the talent he had, he still had to do all that fighting and everybody knew it. If you ask every other tough guy in the NHL, there's only one name going to the top of that list and that's Probie.

"It probably can't happen but I sure wish they'd have a spot in the Hall of Fame for somebody that did the absolute best that anyone could do at that position."

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