Bob Probert was cuffed with his hands behind his back. He was facedown on the ground with a cop’s knee on his neck. Probert told him he was probably the fat kid in school that was always picked on, and that’s why he became a cop. Probert’s face was a mess after that comment. The worst part was that the cop took his $600 sunglasses.
Tough Guy is the no nonsense expose of Bob Probert’s life written with Kirstie McLellan Day. Its part Animal House and part Slap Shot. This is a story of a time in sports that is so different from today that it’s hard to believe that it was only a couple decades ago. Probert was such a hard party machine that he would stay out all night, till 7 A.M. dress for practice and play that night. He was a smoker. He microwaved his urine to fool the testers into thinking it had just come out of his body and yet he occupies some interesting spots in the record books.
The book opens with an emotional narrative of that last day of Probert’s life. Kirstie McLellan Day stirs the emotional soup by quickly shifting the book to Probert’s voice and taking us back in time to a fight with Tie Domi. Probert tells us of Domi’s first shot at fighting him, filling the page with four letter words, you are suddenly jolted out of the opening passage of the book. You know you are in Probie’s world now.
Probert’s ability to party was stunning; it’s amazing he had time for hockey. An example of Probert’s thought process: when meeting the press with fellow draft pick, Steve Yzerman, Probert assessed him as “fairly serious…and not someone you would expect to be sitting next to in a jail cell, laughing off a hangover.”
But he did have time for hockey. In the 1988 Playoffs he broke Gordie Howe’s playoff record of 21 points. Probert held that record until 1995. Probie’s chapter about his friendship with Sheldon Kennedy is particularly heart warming. It was his first really successful attempt at staying clean after a major scrape with the law.
Probert said he was most happy when he was playing and fighting.
The thing you will see over and over with fighters is pride. That blue collar ethic applied to their job as the enforcer, the man that provides protection. Probert was no different when it came to protecting his guys off the ice. In an incident at a bar, Probert engaged in a street fight to defend a teammate. After the fight he went back in the bar to have a couple more beers before going into the emergency room to get stitched up.
Bob Probert was clearly a troubled man. He struggled with priorities and even as he looked back on his life he alternately took responsibility and dodged it throughout the book. Two things kept Probert on the straight and narrow, the game and his family. And he did manage to keep clean, now and then. It’s a crazy ride through the life of a hard partying and hard hitting hockey player.
About the Author: I'm an irascible rec-hockey player, your typical ‘lunch pail’ player. A Colorado native, I was raised on Broncos football, with occasional minor league and Colorado (hockey) Rockies games thrown in. With the arrival of the Colorado Avalanche and my crazy idea to learn to ice skate (and eventually play hockey) at the age of 33, I fell in love with hockey, finally. You can find me here: Real Denver Sports and here: Twitter