Detroit Red Wings’ Tough Guy: The Harrowing truth of Bob Probert

DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 9: Tie Domi #28 of the New York Rangers fights with Bob Probert #24 of the Detroit Red Wings on February 9, 1992 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 9: Tie Domi #28 of the New York Rangers fights with Bob Probert #24 of the Detroit Red Wings on February 9, 1992 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images) /

“Tough Guy,” the harrowing truth of former Detroit Red Wings enforcer Bob Probert.

The movie was a hit; people flocked to the 100-year-old theatre in the Walkerville district in waves to see the opening of “tough guy” the Bob Probert story.  The film indeed didn’t hold back, the former Detroit Red Wings power forward had an interesting life, to say the least.

It is a unique old theater that demonstrates its history and longevity through it’s chipped and weathered walls.  The building set in the heart of a tending community in Windsor, Ontario simply named “Walkerville.”  A couple of blocks away from the tasty Walkerville Brewery, a local favorite in the city.

Wife Dani along with many more representing the Probert family was in attendance to take in the double screening of the feature on opening night.  Also in attendance was former Detroit Red Wings forward and fan favorite Darren McCarty, along with former netminder Eddie Mio.

More from Octopus Thrower

Bob Probert himself uniquely told much of the film.  They were able to take clips of Bob throughout various interviews and blended them together with many recordings as they prepared to write his book “tough guy” prior to his unfortunate death in 2010.  The film, of course, was created from the book, which is a must read.

At times the movie becomes tough to watch.  The struggle with sobriety or lack thereof. The film explains the trips in and out of rehab facilities, the peer pressure of being on the road while temptation sets in to have a drink while you fight the urge.  Temptation seemed always to win the battle with Bob.

Dani talks about the affect CTE may have played, she remembers the family side of bob, being a big teddy bear at home when he was straight.  She talks about how well he cared for his children, how good of a father he was.  She takes the viewer on an emotional roller coaster as she describes his last minutes.

He wrote a touching letter to his addiction before a trip to a rehab facility; one would think as a form of motivation after he missed his children opening their gifts on Christmas morning.  He was passed out lifeless most of the morning on the couch trying to recover from a binge the night/morning prior.

"“Dear disease,  You have taken away valuable time from my wonderful wife Dani and my four kids. You have taken away my self-respect and dignity. You have turned me into someone that I am not. You have hurt me financially. You have controlled my thoughts and my feelings. You took me away from things I used to do to have fun… You took away my twins’ birthday, you took away from me Christmas, 2002. You took a lot from me, but that is about to stop, to change.”"

Probert lost his father early in life.  His father was portrayed as rugged yet likable Windsor cop.  Bob’s mother describes her son not having a chance to properly grieve the loss of his father, as one of his dad’s coworkers and friends drove Bob up to report to his junior hockey team the day after his fathers funeral.

The movie goes through the list of struggles through the 1980s & ’90s with cocaine and alcohol, the multiple arrests, the car accidents, the motorcycle accidents.  At one point in the movie, Bob Probert mentions to an arresting cop, “charge me with the regular.”

The film features player interviews with former teammates and various opponents.  My favorite part is a rare clip of Steve Yzerman standing on the bench making a gesture with his hands across his waist signaling a heavyweight belt to Probert as he skates to the penalty box.

It came after the much-anticipated scrap with Tie Domi of the New York Rangers.  Madison Square Garden was the home of many events, but prior to the game Probert vs. Domi was billed as if it was Ali/Frazier.  After the scrap, Yzerman made the gesture which tells you all you need to know about the result and the normally even-keeled Yzerman couldn’t channel the adrenaline flowing.

The thing I realized the most while watching the documentary was every single night someone wanted to try their luck against Probie, I mean many tough guys scrapped on the regular like Tony Twist, Stu Grimson, etc. They might scrap 2 or 3 times over a 5 or 6 game span, Probert dropped them every single night.  That is the price you pay when you are considered the heavy-weight champ.

At one point Probert references the impact that wrestling played at that time in the late ’80s.  He considered himself as Hulk Hogan and Tie Domi as being the Macho Man Randy Savage.  Everyone wants what Hogan has, and Probie never turned down a title defense.

dark. Next. Has the hot seat cooled for Jeff Blashill?

I assume this will not be the last you hear of this film. It is too good not to be played throughout the Detroit area.  I expect dates to be announced in the near future and I highly recommend taking the time to see this.  Being a Detroit Red Wings fan, it brings back great memories and also the utter disappointment of a local hero’s struggles and  courageous battle with addiction.