Warren County Memories book 20 Under 40

Former Red Wings remember Probert

2010-07-05T20:24:00Z 2010-07-06T00:21:46Z Former Red Wings remember ProbertBy TIM McMANUS tmcmanus@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star

Twenty-four years ago, the Adirondack Red Wings were locked in a playoff series heading quickly in the wrong direction.

The top-seeded Red Wings were losing 7-1 to Fredericton on the road in the third period of a Game 4 that was about to tie their opening-round Calder Cup playoff series at two games apiece.

At that moment, twenty-year old Bob Probert came roaring off the bench and didn't stop skating until he intentionally barrelled over Fredericton goaltender Frank Caprice.

Probert was suspended for the rest of the series, but his move worked. Adirondack won the next four games of the series and went on to win the franchise's second Calder Cup.

"It turned the series around for us," said Glenn Merkosky, who played on that team. "We won a series that might have been tough for us to win."

Probert, who'd go on to become one of the NHL's most legendary enforcers, died Monday in Ontario. He was 45.

According to the Associated Press, Probert was on a boat in Lake St. Clair with his wife, children, and in-laws when he collapsed after experiencing severe chest pains. Probert later died at Ontario's Windsor Regional Medical Center.

"He was a big, tough kid but he had a heart of gold," Merkosky said. "He was good to people and he was good to his friends. Sad day."

Probert played 32 games with the Adirondack Red Wings that season, scoring 12 goals and racking up 152 penalty minutes. He also played seven games with the Red Wings the next season.

Even then, his coach Bill Dineen said, it was evident he was going to be something special.

"I think it was pretty obvious what he brought to the table: A guy with his prowess as an enforcer and plus the high-skill level on top of it," Dineen said.

Both Dineen and Merkosky said that while Probert is remembered as a legendary fighter, it shouldn't be overlooked that he was a tremendous player.

Probert scored 29 goals with Detroit in 1987-88 and finished his career with 163 goals in 935 games with the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. His 3,300 career penalty minutes are sixth in NHL history.

Probert retired in 2002.

Alcohol issues plagued Probert's playing career and he did several stints in rehab and had many brushes with the law. The most serious came when he was arrested in 1989 for cocaine possession and spent three months in jail.

"He did do great things up there (in the NHL), but to think of what he could have been if he had looked after himself," Dineen said. "Because he had it all. He had unusual size for a forward in those days, plus he had great hands."

Whatever issues Probert had off the ice, Dineen remembered him as a good player to coach. A player who clearly enjoyed a good time, but showed up for practice on time and respected his coaches.

"He was also a pretty good kid. He would sit down and listen you," Dineen said. "Sometimes, maybe more often than not, he wouldn't take your advice. But at least, you know, he was very respectful of people."

A respect, Dineen said, that lingered long after he became a star. Dineen last ran into him after a game in Chicago sometime in the ‘90s.

"He made a point of coming over and spending a little time with me, which I thought was nice, you know?" Dineen said. He was on his way out of the rink and probably had things to do and places to go and he made the effort to do that."

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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