Bob Probert was a fighter. On the ice, he was one of the greatest enforcers in the history of hockey. Off the ice, he fought demons of another sort, an addiction battle that was much harder to win.
Probert opened up to author Kirstie McLellan Day about the life he lived at full speed until his death in July 2010.
Excerpt: The night Probert was busted at the Detroit border for cocaine. He was with future wife Dani and friends.
(The border guards) said, "Come into the back room." I did, and they told me to take off my shirt. Then they said, "All right, now your pants." I dropped my pants to my ankles. "Okay, now your underwear." I was wearing boxers. I usually wear boxers, but these were the stretchy ones, so they were a little tighter around the legs. I pulled my underwear straight down and the Baggies went down with them. I was standing there with my arms at my sides, trying not to look at the corner of one of the Baggies, because it was sticking out a little. They told me, "Okay, turn around -≠ turn back, okay, pull 'em up." I leaned over, and as I was pulling up the underwear, the guy spotted a glint off the Baggie and said, "Hang on a minute, what's ... Hand me that." So close. I handed him the bigger Baggie, but the smaller Baggie stayed in my shorts.
They put me back in the waiting room and I asked to go to the bathroom.
They said, "No, sit back down." A few minutes later, they said, "Okay, you can go to the bathroom." So I went in there while a guy stood by the door.
He was watching me as I started to take a piss. Then he let the door close and stood outside. As I was pissing, I took out the Baggie, dropped it in the toilet and pissed on it. Then I thought, "What the hell?" I was already damned. I picked it up and ran it under the tap, pulled out the rock, cut it up a little and used it. Then I put the rest of the rock into the Baggie and shoved it into my shirt pocket.
They took me to a holding cell and left. I still had my wallet with all my money and a couple of credit cards, in my pocket. I was sitting in there on this stool with no one around, so I crushed up more of the rock, rolled up a dollar bill and did a couple of lines. Five minutes later, three of them came back for a secondary search. "Get away from the door. Up against the wall!" Just like in the movies.
They patted me down again, and the Baggie fell to the floor. They were pissed because they had already written me up for a certain amount -- 11.4 grams -- and finding the rest made them look bad. I'm thinking they tore it up and flushed that report, because the papers they gave my lawyer said 14.2 grams. Whatever.
On fighting Tie Domi among the 238 fights in his career.
Domi was just a hard guy to fight. The shorter guys often are. He was a lefty too. And to his credit, he was a tough little bastard. He could really take a punch.
He wanted to go right from the faceoff. He must have asked me three times.
Finally, he said, "Come on, Bob, Macho Man wants a shot at the title." He was a cocky little s--t.
I said, "Aw, (expletive) let's go."
He grabbed my jersey and swung at air a few times. I connected a few times, but he didn't go down. I got my jersey off but Domi had some left. I got a little cut on a little piece of skin next to my eye when he wandered through with a left. It didn't hurt but it looked bad. I was getting pissed, so about forty seconds in I tagged him pretty good. The refs came in and stopped it at about fifty seconds. But to give him credit, he was still standing.
When he was skating off he did his thing with his hands, sort of circling his waist as if he was wearing a championship belt. What it comes down to, I think, is if you're an insecure person, you're a little louder and put on more of a show, and if you're more secure, you take you wins and losses.
Maybe Tie was always wondering what people thought of him? For whatever reason, he felt that the belt show was necessary. I don't know who he was doing it for -- himself or the crowd -- but it was a little too cocky.
I didn't care for that, or for the way Domi acted after. I didn't like the way he was building himself up. And when people start going to the press and mouthing off, well, that's not cool ....
Mo Melly (Sheldon Kennedy) was my roommate on the road, and the day of our next fight, December 2, 1992, he and I woke up from out pre-game naps and looked at the front page of the sports section of The New York Times. It was crazy. The media was hyping me and Domi like Ali and Frazier. They had our stats -- height, weight, reach, number of penalties. I asked Mo Melly, "What do you think?" He said, "I don't know, man. I'm not a fighter, Bob. Just go and do what you got to do, man. You are the one that everybody wants to tackle. You obviously know what you're doing, so just go do it, man." I wasn't scared, just nervous and concerned. The main thing was, I didn't want to get embarrassed. Inside, I guess I cared about being the best.
About thirty-seven seconds in, right at the faceoff, I said, "Let's go, you little ----er." Domi tried to blow me off. He said, "I'll let you know." I said, "Right now." Domi would sometimes fight left and sometimes right. I couldn't really string him out because he was always moving, or else he would be in so tight that I'd be punching down on top of his head, which was so big it was hard to miss. I used to joke that they must use rivets to get his helmet on ....
The writers said I threw out forty-seven punches to his twenty-three. I mean, that stat really doesn't mean anything. What counts is what connected.
I got a few good ones in. After Domi hit the ice, Stevie Y (Yzerman) did the belt thing back to Domi, which was pretty funny. It was a good, clean fight that lasted over a minute. Kris King, a Ranger enforcer, said he got tired just watching. For me, it was just another day at the office. There was no sense yapping about it.