Ex-Red Wing enforcer Probert dies

Updated: July 6, 2010, 8:20 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

DETROIT -- Retired hockey enforcer Bob Probert, as adept with his fists as with a stick in a 16-season career with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, died Monday after suffering chest pains while boating with his family. He was 45.

"Bob lost the fight of his life this afternoon," said Probert's father-in-law, Dan Parkinson, a police officer who performed CPR before Probert was rushed to Ontario's Windsor Regional Medical Center.

Probert was on a boat in Lake St. Clair with his wife, children and in-laws when he "developed severe chest pains" Monday, family friend Rich Rogow said at a news conference at the medical center on Monday night.

"This is a tragedy for the family," Parkinson said. "We ask that you respect their privacy at this time."

Probert, who struggled to overcome drinking problems during his time in the NHL, played for the Red Wings in 1985-1994 and for the Blackhawks in 1995-2002.

"Bob was a part of our very first NHL Draft class that also included Steve Yzerman, Joe Kocur, Petr Klima and Stu Grimson," Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch said in a statement. "Bob was always there for his teammates and was one of the toughest men to ever play in the NHL.

"He also was one of the kindest, most colorful, and beloved players Detroit has ever known."

Kocur remembered his teammate as "one of the toughest players, best power forwards and all-around great guys who ever wore the Winged Wheel."

"My favorite memory of Bob would be sitting down before a game, going over the opposing lineup and picking and choosing who would go first and if the goalie would be safe or not," Kocur said. "It was great to be able to go out on the ice knowing that he had my back and I had his.

[+] EnlargeBob Probert
Rick Stewart /Getty ImagesBob Probert finished his career with 163 goals, 384 points and 3,300 penalty minutes -- fourth in NHL history -- in 935 games.

"He was like the brother I never had. My prayers go out to his family."

Blackhawks president John McDonough said the organization's "thoughts and prayers are with the entire Probert family."

"Bob will always be a member of the Blackhawks family and his memory will live on through our fans," McDonough said in a statement.

The Windsor native had 384 points (163 goals, 221 assists) in 935 career regular-season games with Detroit and Chicago. His 3,300 career penalty minutes rank sixth in NHL history.

"Bob was a guy that started as a strictly tough guy but made himself a player," former Toronto maple Leafs enforcer Wendel Clark told Canadian Press. "Off the ice, everything was a whole different story. He was one of the good guys and he'd do anything for anybody."

Probert was charged several times with driving under the influence while playing for Detroit. He also was caught trying to carry cocaine from Canada into the U.S. in 1989 and served a six-month federal prison sentence.

He was placed on inactive status for the 1994-95 season after he was involved in a motorcycle accident and tests showed alcohol and cocaine in his system.

The Blackhawks honored Probert with a Bob Probert Heritage Night on Feb. 22, 2009, at the United Center, and he dropped the ceremonial puck before Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference Final between Detroit and Chicago.

No funeral arrangements were immediately made. Probert is survived by his wife and four children.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.