He was one of the most feared and well-respected tough guys in NHL history, and those who were brave enough to drop the gloves with Bob Probert tell the story in a new book.
By Mark Malinowski
Mike Hartman: “My father watched the fight from the penalty box where he was taking pictures of the Red Wings for a special project they needed. My father was the team photographer. When I played, my father would watch from the seats, except that night he was in the home penalty box. After our fight, Bob was sent to the penalty box with a cut above his forehead. Then Bob turned to my father and said, ‘I’m going to hurt your son tonight.’ “
Kevin Kaminski: “In the locker room before game, I told Olie (Kolzig), ‘Tonight’s the night.’…He looked at me and said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘I’m fighting Probie.’ He said, ‘No you’re not. Why?!?’…I said, ‘He’s getting old and I want to say I fought ‘The Legend’…so I did…I had a bunch of family there that night. It was a pretty cool night. Fought The Legend and didn’t get knocked out.(Laughs)”
Chris Dingman: “My first shift was after a goal. I lined up at center, he came out on right wing and just said to me calmly, ‘Did your coach send you out here to give me a try?’ And I said, ‘No, but if you want, we can go.’ And he goes, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ So at least he asked me. So we ended up fighting, and all I can remember was Theoren Fleury from the bench, and a couple of other guys: ‘KEEP SWINGIN’ DINGER! KEEP SWINGIN’!’ I guess I did pretty good and went and sat in the penalty box. The adrenaline was pumping, and Jeff Odgers came over and he’s like, ‘Good job.’ “
Neil Sheehy: “All I knew is that he was trying to spread my nose over my face, and I wanted to survive the fight and try and give my team a boost by standing up to him without getting beat up. I survived the fight. I was glad that we didn’t play in the same division where teams met eight times per season in a 21-team NHL.”
Ka-Dy King (former pro boxer and trainer): “I know Manny (Hall of Fame boxing trainer Emanuel Steward) brought him in. Manny would bring in a lot of sports people and different celebrities to learn how to box. So he brought in Bob Probert and two other younger guys. At first Bob, believe it or not, was so green. I’m a skill guy, so Manny wanted me to work with him, not hurt him. Teach him different punches and throwing shorter punches. Then one day that motherf—er punched me so hard. I mean really hard. I had to tell Manny, ‘If I can’t hit him, he’s gonna kill me!'”
Tom Kurvers: “I cross-checked him once in front of the net, and he punched me in the head and pretty much knocked me silly. (Laughs) And I’m most proud that I was able to keep playing. It wasn’t a fight; it was a: don’t-ever-come-near-me-again punch in the head.”
Jamie Pushor: “Later in his career and he still wanted to fight. He was looking for a fight. He’d fight the same way right till the end of his playing career. He was a brawler. He was a good fighter. Yeah, I’m glad my helmet stayed on. (Laughs) Put it that way.”
Craig Berube: “I fought him like eight or nine times in my career. You were always thinking about it, that’s for sure, before the game. Because he was a big man, very strong, obviously powerful, tough. But a real honest guy out there. Never tried to do anything dirty or anything like that. Very honest player. It’s a shame he’s not around.”
Chris Kotsopoulos: “He was like a battleship cruising the ice ready to take on all comers. Plenty of guys were just simply scared sh–less of him.”
Ken Daneyko: “I was glad I got out of it alive. He caught me in the ear. I had a little cauliflower ear after. (Laughs) But I hung in there. Fortunately I was strong enough to not get strung out with his long reach. But I just remember his tenacity. He was a guy to be reckoned with and respected because of the fact he didn’t seem to fear anybody.”
These quotes are excerpted from the new book Facing Bob Probert: Portrait Of A Hockey Legend by Scoop Malinowski, available for $5.99 at Amazon.ca.