Detroit Red Wings History: Remembering the Bruise Brothers


In the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings drafted Steve Yzerman, a player who would forever change the face of the Red Wings organization. Aside from Yzerman, the Red Wings also drafted two players in 1983 who would forever change the faces of many NHL players. Those two players were Bob Probert and Joey Kocur.

During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Probert and Kocur became known as “The Bruise Brothers” for their enforcing and punishing style of hockey, as well as the ridiculous amount of penalty minutes (by today’s standards) the two racked up. To put things in perspective, last season Steve Downie lead the NHL in penalty minutes with 238. In the 1987-88 season, Bob Probert accumulated 398 penalty minutes. Probert’s 398 penalty minutes would also set the Red Wings’ franchise record for most PIM in a single-season. Despite the 398 penalty minutes that season, Probert also finished third in points on the Red Wings with 62 pts.

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Not only does Bob Probert hold the Detroit Red Wings’ franchise record for single-season penalty minutes, he is also the franchise leader in total penalty minutes with 2,090 PIM earned in a Red Wings’ uniform. On the all-time penalty minutes list, Probie ranks 5th with 3,300 PIM. Joey Kocur is no slouch either when it comes to all-time penalty minutes, he currently ranks 20th on the list with 2,519 PIM. Of Kocur’s 2,519 career penalty minutes, 1,963 of them came during his time with Detroit.

Joey Kocur, and his devastating right-hook, had two stints with the Detroit Red Wings. Kocur’s first tour of duty lasted from 1984 until 1991, and he was later brought back from 1996-1999 at the suggestion of Steve Yzerman, who most likely wanted somebody to watch his back after Probert signed with Chicago in 1994. Although Kocur’s penalty minutes were drastically down, his grit and toughness helped the Wings win their back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 97 & 98.

Speaking of Joey Kocur’s devastating right-punch, one of Kocur and Probert’s favorite punching-bags, Donald Brashear, once recalled one of his fights with Kocur:

"“Kocur was hitting me in the helmet like a power hammer and in the end the helmet split! I remember the next day I had a terrible pain, my gums on the left side of my head were hurting even though he was hitting me on the right side of my face. I couldn’t chew anything. I wonder what it would be like if I did not have a helmet? Too scary.”"

But it was the pair’s time spent serving together in Detroit that solidified their status as legendary NHL enforcers. Probert and Kocur played six seasons alongside one another between 1985-1991, and in that time the two combined for a total of 2,897 penalty minutes. Most of the minutes were served for protecting and defending Detroit’s skilled forwards such as Steve Yzerman. The duo had rivalries with several fellow enforces such as Wendel Clark, Tie Domi and Donald Brashear.

After Probert went to Chicago after not being re-signed by the Wings, due to his legal troubles, it was only poetic that the two former tag-team partners would find themselves squaring off. It wasn’t the greatest fight of all time, but it was one that was destined to happen.

After Bob Probert’s untimely death in 2010, Joey Kocur gave a very touching and poignant interview about his longtime teammate.

"“Everything we did on that ice was for the Red Wings, for the team, for each other…We enjoyed it, we loved it and he was the best at it.”"

Whether or not you like fighting in hockey, it’s an important part of what makes the game so uniquely special to everyone who loves the sport. It’s more than just two guys viciously punching each other in the head, it’s about being able to stand up for yourself, your team and your friends in the face of disrespect and injustice. In the effort to curb brain related injuries and deaths (which I fully support), the NHL has slowly transitioned away from fighting at the professional level, basically eradicating the enforcer role from the game.

Players like Joey Kocur and Bob Probert might not fit into today’s NHL style of hockey, but they have without a doubt carved and punched their names into the history of both the Detroit Red Wings and the National Hockey League alike, and for that we salute you.

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