SUN Hockey Pool

Big Bob a challenge to control

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:35 PM ET

WINDSOR, Ont. -- There are a million Bob Probert stories.

Terry Crisp has a beauty.

This goes back to 1985 when Probert, the legendary NHL tough guy who died Monday at age 45 and was laid to rest Friday, was a member of the Soo Greyhounds junior team.

Crisp was the Hounds coach. He had one of the best teams in OHL history, the only club to finish with a perfect 33-0 record on home ice.

But big Bob was, even before his pro career started, a challenge to control. The son of a late Windsor policeman had instinctive talent to play hockey but also a natural aversion to rules and regulations.

"I remember we had a team rule in the Soo during the winter that you couldn't wear sneakers," Crisp said. "I didn't want the players getting pneumonia when it was blowing and storming out so we set up with one of the clothing stores downtown that all the players could go in and get boots at a 60% discount."

Crisp said any player showing up without his boots on would be fined.

Probert was one of the older players -- he had been traded to the Soo from Brantford to be part of a Memorial Cup run -- so he wasn't going to school, Crisp said.

"So we made those guys come down to the rink at 9:30 in the morning and we'd have them work on some things or do something in the community, that sort of thing, but they had to show up."

Crisp was talking to the guys and happened to look down at Probert's feet.

Sneakers.

"I said, 'C'mon, now Probie, you know the rules and he said, 'Oh, coach,' and you could see his mind working and he was looking for an out," Crisp said.

Probert smiled and started up on a story to avoid paying the $10 fine.

"All of a sudden, his blue eyes lit up and he told me, 'Coach, I got up this morning, got dressed, went downstairs to go and discovered my landlord had put on my boots and taken them to work,' " Crisp said. " 'All I had was these sneakers.'

"He looked at me and I said, 'C'mon, Probie, what do you think I am here? Ten bucks in the kitty. Let's go.' "

Crisp, a Stanley Cup-winning coach, played with and against some of the best fighters in hockey history.

"Probie's right up there with the Hammer (Dave Schultz), Terry O'Reilly and all the guys like that," Crisp said. "But the game has changed. You've got these massive guys like Derek Boogaard in the league now and I don't know how Bob would've done against them today.

"But I know he would've been willing."

Every teammate and hockey friend -- from Steve Yzerman down the line -- said the same thing about Probert: Everyone played a little bigger with Big Bob on board.

"That's one thing I didn't have to worry about when Probie was in the lineup," Crisp said. "You didn't have to think about your best player getting run or your goalie. It wouldn't happen. Bob stood up for his teammates every time.

"He protected them."

And it was clear they'd all miss him terribly now that he's gone.

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